Sony Ericsson and Clearwire

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Sony Ericsson has moved to sue Clearwire over their green swirly logo, claiming that it is noticeably similar to their own logo. They have filed for a federal trademark lawsuit in Virginia.  Clearwire, a wireless Internet service provider, plans to launch new handsets later this year and intends to put their new logo on each of these handsets.

 According to Sony Ericsson, Clearwire had only decided on their logo back in October 2009, and in January 2010 Sony Ericsson started their complaints about the confusingly similar logos. With Clearwire’s decision to move into the mobile phone market, they are now in direct competition with Sony Ericsson.

The problem with Clearwire’s logo plans became even greater in October last year when they decided to make their logo green, like Sony Ericsson’s logo. With both companies now competing within the same field, both with green swirl logos; Sony Ericsson’s objection is unsurprising. It has had its green swirl logo since 2001, and the logo has become a recognizable indicator for the company throughout Europe. The company has stated that Clearwire may gain an “unfair competitive advantage” by imitating their logo.  They have also expressed concerns that “Unless enjoined, Defendants’ current and announced conduct will confuse customers and cause irreparable harm to Sony Ericsson“. 

When Sony Ericsson complained, Clearwire had agreed previously to use a different logo when they had a swirl logo with the green and white in reverse to Sony Ericsson’s.  Clearwire had abandoned their trademark applications for their reverse image logo, but then went on to use a virtually identical logo for its advertising causing Sony Ericsson to take up legal action.

 Although both companies function within the mobile market, they compete within different spheres of the market. However, Sony Ericsson claims it was Clearwire’s announcement that they were going to try and compete within the Smartphone market, meaning that the companies would be in direct competition, which moved it to file the lawsuit. However, as Clearwire is reportedly in a bad way financially, there does not seem to be any immediate cause for concern from Sony Ericsson.

 Currently Clearwire is only functioning as a network provider, meaning that any confusion between the two logos should be lessened. Although Clearwire may have suggested plans to move into the market of Smartphones, this does not appear likely to happen any time soon, which might make the courts less sympathetic to Sony Ericsson’s concerns.

Whether or not the court decides to take Sony Ericsson’s side on this case, the issue highlights the difficulties of protecting your trademark, and creating trademarks that are not likely to cause any legal disagreements from any other companies.