I can't honestly claim to know a whole lot about e-cigarettes. That's because when I was still smoking, I smoked the old fashioned kind of cigarettes. You know, the ones made from tobacco, that cured acne, and that made my breath smell as cool and fabulous as a pub toilet. Plus, everyone was doing it and my lungs weren't going to give themselves cancer, so you know. But, even knowing little about e-cigarettes, I know enough to know that they aren't ale houses located in Riverdale, New Jersey. This is a conclusion that the lawyers over at Lorillard, makers of "blu" e-cigarettes, think is likely to escape the larger population, as they have decided to file a trademark dispute against Blu Alehouse over its name and logo.
The lawsuit filed by Lorillard Technologies Inc.
centers on a logo that NJ Ale House LLC is using at its Blu Alehouse in Riverdale, N.J., Law360 reported. According to the news website, the logo features "the word 'blu' surrounded by smoke or flames." The subsidiary of Greensboro-based Lorillard (NYSE: LO) claims that the logo is too much like the branding for blu eCigs.
Let's leave everything else aside for a moment and simply take a look at the two logos to see if they look substantially similar on their own. First is the logo of Blu Alehouse. Note that this logo normally appears alongside the full name of the establishment.
And now the logo for blu Cigarettes.
Neither logo is particularly complicated, but even failing to correct for the simplicity of the designs, the two logos are distinctly different. If both logos didn't incorporate the word "blu" in them, there would be absolutely nothing to argue about here. And, again, that's strictly taking the logos into account with no other context. Because once we use the likelihood of customer confusion and the markets of competition tests, I'm failing to see how this wasn't tossed immediately upon a judge's review. An ale house isn't competing with cigarettes in any way. Add to that that it would be quite difficult for even the most moronic and hurried citizens to mistake the two companies for each other, what with the ale house's logo typically appearing alongside other signage that identifies itself as an ale house.
Strangely, an actual judge reviewing the claim thought differently.
U.S. District Judge Kevin McNulty found that Lorillard — along with another subsidiary, LOEC Inc. — made "plausible claims for trademark infringement and unfair competition," and he ruled that the case could go on, Law360 reported.
How is the claim of unfair competition even possible? The two companies aren't competing with each other at all. The only mention of competition in the court filing by Lorillard is over the fact that sometimes they advertise their cigarettes at drinking establishments.
LTI and LOEC allege that Blu Alehouse bar and restaurant is directed at a similar consumer base as LTI and LOEC's BLU products because BLU products are promoted at bars, restaurants, and lounges.
But that doesn't actually put the companies in competition with one another. That would be like Budweiser claiming that Big Buds Magazine, here to serve all of your marijuana information needs, infringed on Budweiser marks because they occasionally sell beer to high people. Why should that matter at all?
Hopefully as this case moves forward, a more sensible conclusion is reached.