Black is Black, I want my brand name back

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The suit filed by Research in Motion (RIM) Ltd. against Samsung Electronic Co. Ltd. seems aimed at sending a signal to other manufacturers not to fool around with the well-established BlackBerry brand, says a Canadian analyst.

In a complaint before the U.S. District Court of California, Waterloo, Ont.-based RIM claimed Samsung has infringed on its brand by marketing a product that shares an uncanny resemblance to the Waterloo, Ont. firms’ BlackBerry Pearl smart phone.

“I don’t think the goal here is to reach a speedy resolution, as it is to send a message to other companies that if they try to ride on the BlackBerry name, RIM is going to sue,” said Carmi Levy, senior research analyst, Info-Tech Research Group Inc. London, Ont.

ITWorldCanada.Com contacted both Samsung and RIM, but both companies declined to comment on the matter, saying the case is before the courts.

RIM’s 14-page complaint accused Samsung of deliberately “tarnishing, blurring, diluting and disparaging RIM’s reputation and goodwill as well as RIM’s famous BlackBerry marks.”

Samsung recently launched its BlackJack smart phone which, much like the BlackBerry Pearl, can take digital pictures, play music and video, and has mobile e-mail and Internet access capabilities.

Unlike the BlackBerry Pearl, which runs on proprietary software, the BlackJack is powered by software from Microsoft Corp.

In their complaint, lawyers for RIM said the name BlackJack “constitutes false designation of origin, unfair competition and trademark dilution in violation of the laws of the United States.”

Levy, however, played down the similarities between the two devices. “If you put the phones side by side you can clearly see the differences. When you turn the units on, you’ll know they have different software.” The BlackJack name, however “might confuse the uninitiated,” the analyst said.

Historically market leaders have always been very protective of their brand name and product differentiation.

For instance, Apple Computer Inc. has filed similar charges against companies such as Creative Technology Ltd. Creative’s MP3 players look like Apple’s popular iPod, according to Cupertino, Calif-based Apple.

Levy said RIM sees Samsung’s BlackJack as a threat and wants to nip the problem in the bud “before the confusion plays out in the market place.”

Devices such as smart phones have a very limited life cycle and tend to get obsolete in 12 months and RIM wants to protect the sales of a product they have heavily invested in, he said.

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