Annapolis boat company loses 'Calypso' trademark ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY

December 02, 1992|By Arthur Hirsch | Arthur Hirsch,Staff Writer

In a sea battle fought with legal pleadings, the Cousteau Society has harpooned an Annapolis company's attempt to trademark the name Calypso for a line of inflatable boats.

The society won a decision from a three-judge panel of the federal Patent and Trademark Office that will prevent Intercoastal Inc. from registering the name it has been using for its boats for about three years.

John Hornick, the Washington lawyer who represented the society, said the panel based its Nov. 12 decision on how the public is apt to perceive a product emblazoned with the Calypso name. Because the name has for so long been associated with the Cousteau Society, the panel ruled that the public "may be likely to believe those boats were licensed or associated with the Cousteau Society in some way," Mr. Hornick said.

Jacques Yves-Cousteau, whose oceanographic expedition ship is named the Calypso, has been putting the name and logo on diving equipment, helicopters, planes and hot air balloons for decades.

The Norfolk, Va.-based Cousteau Society holds three trademarks that include the name Calypso: one with a logo, one with the logo and the name Cousteau Society and a third for "Calypso Log," the society's official publication. The society does not hold a trademark for the name itself, Mr. Hornick said.

Roger Dherlin, vice president of Intercoastal, said "I don't understand the decision . . . I'm really disappointed."

Mr. Dherlin and his brother, Georges, the company president, say they chose the name Calypso because when they visited their factory in South America calypso music was playing on the radio. They say it had nothing to do with Mr. Cousteau or his organization.

Mr. Cousteau uses and endorses a line of inflatable boats that carry the Zodiac label.

Roger Dherlin said the Cousteau Society is not in the business of making boats and holds no trademark in the category for "vehicles," under which Intercoastal applied. Mr. Hornick said the categories are used by the Trademark Office only for keeping records of trademarks and applications; they are not considered relevant to trademark rights.

Mr. Dherlin said the company has two months to appeal the ruling but has not decided whether to do so. Donald Zinn, the lawyer representing Intercoastal, is out of town this week and could not be reached for comment.

While the vote of the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board does not prevent Intercoastal from continuing to use the name Calypso -- they simply cannot obtain the trademark -- Mr. Dherlin wondered aloud if the Cousteau Society might sue if he does not make a change.

Mr. Hornick declined to say what, if any, action the society would take if Intercoastal continued to use the name.

"The question is, do I want to fight with a giant?" said Mr. Dherlin, adding that Intercoastal has already spent about $14,000 on legal bills.

From the time the Cousteau Society chose to challenge the trademark application last year, the Dherlin brothers have sought to portray this as a David and Goliath battle. They have said they can ill afford a long legal fight with the society, a 300,000-member organization with a budget of about $18 million.

Mr. Hornick has countered that argument by noting that the Cousteau Society is a non-profit research and educational organization, while Intercoastal is "in this to make money."

The Dherlins opened Intercoastal in 1986, a year after they moved to Annapolis from northern France. They manufacture boats ranging from 8 to 24 feet which sell from $800 to $5,000.

Last year, the company grossed nearly $500,000 in sales, Roger Dherlin said. "We are small guys here."

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