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Newport Electronics Names Newport Corp. in Trademark Suit

Photonics Spectra
Dec 1999
Gaynell Terrell

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- Newport Electronics Inc.'s inch-thick complaint of trademark infringement in federal district court against Newport Corp. is another entry in the larger history of trademark -- and now Internet domain name -- disputes.

Newport Corp. of Irvine, Calif., registered the domain name Newport.com in 1994 and has used it to market components and systems for laser and optical technologies on the Internet since 1995, court records show.

Newport Electronics of Santa Ana, Calif., makes often-competing components for scientific and industrial use. It filed an application with the US Patent and Trademark Office in March 1996 to register Newport.com as a trademark, which was published for opposition Jan. 13, 1998. Three days later, Newport Corp. legally opposed the trademark. The countermeasure has suffered a lengthy wait for resolution in the vaults of the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board and was last assigned to an attorney for investigation Oct. 18.

Newport Electronics escalated the dispute by suing Newport Corp. in US District Court in Connecticut (Newport Electronics has headquarters in Stamford) on Aug. 3 on charges of trademark infringement, unfair competition and false designation. The complaint stated that Newport Electronics has used versions of the name "Newport" for high-tech components for more than 30 years. That case is awaiting the outcome of the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ruling.

Robert Curcio, attorney for Newport Electronics, could not divulge what is going on with the case or the trademark appeal.

Newport Corp. President Robert Hewitt said he had not seen Newport Electronics' complaint, and did not associate it with the domain name dispute.

John Patton, a property litigation attorney with Hughes & Luce of Dallas and an expert in intellectual property law, said most domain name cases are found in favor of the company or individual registering the name. He said Newport Corp. "registered one of the few logical names that identify them on the Internet," adding he would be surprised if the company were forced to give up the domain name.

"If these two companies weren't in the same industry, it wouldn't be an issue," he said, explaining that Newport brand cigarettes would have no claim on a Web page for a photonics supplier.

"If both of them have registered trademarks for similar things, we're talking about a case of two legitimate owners being caught in the fact that you can have only one domain name," agreed Eleanor Meltzer, an attorney with the Patent and Trademark Office.

The Newport case differs from other recent Internet domain name disputes in that there's no clear evidence of "cybersquatting," or registering a domain name of a famous person or company in hopes of receiving a windfall in return for turning over the name to its namesake.


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