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Monkey see, monkey sue? Firm's name spawns lawsuit

•  Recent Cases     updated  2009/09/28 10:26


A federal lawsuit is simmering between two marketing companies — A Hundred Monkeys in California and 100 Monkeys in Wisconsin.

Onespecializes in public relations and the other helps clients come upwith company names. Now, in a bit of "gorilla warfare," they'rewrangling over their own corporate names.

In the lawsuit, AHundred Monkeys Inc., based in Mill Valley, Calif., is accusing 100Monkeys Inc., headquartered in the Milwaukee suburb of Wauwatosa, oftrademark infringement.

Because the names sound so similar andthe two companies are direct competitors, "customers and potentialcustomers are likely to be confused into believing" the companies arerelated, the California company alleged in a lawsuit filed this week inMilwaukee.

The Wisconsin company disagrees, saying there is no infringement because the firms offer different services.

100Monkeys' name derives from a supposed phenomenon describing howindividual behavior might spread to become part of the group's culture.The so-called "100th monkey effect" asserts that individual abilitiesand knowledge spread slowly within a group at first. But when acritical mass — the presumed 100th monkey — acquires the skill, theawareness suddenly spreads to every member of the group.

Urbanlegend attributes the rapid spread to paranormal means. However,marketers refer to the 100th monkey as the tipping point where enoughearly adopters have accepted a product that it finally becomesmainstream.

Rose Linke, a spokeswoman for A Hundred Monkeys, would not say how her company got its name.

TheWest coast company wants its Midwest competitor to cut out the monkeybusiness by changing its name and paying unspecified damages.

"Youhave no legitimate rights or interests in respect of the '100 Monkeys'name and (trade)mark," A Hundred Monkeys said in a cease-and-desistletter in May. "It is an obvious appropriation of the 'A HundredMonkeys' (trade)mark with a different spelling."


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