Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Supreme Court Allows Kellogg to Take on Exxon

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Supreme Court Allows Kellogg to Take on Exxon

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- Let the fur fly. Tony the Tiger can go to court against another well-known cartoon trademark: the tiger in the old "Put a Tiger in Your Tank" advertising campaign.

Yesterday, oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp. lost a bid to head off a trial over whether its cartoon tiger violates cereal-maker Kellogg Co.'s trademark for Tony. The Supreme Court, without comment, let stand a lower court ruling that it isn't too late for Kellogg to make the trademark claim, even though both trademarked tigers have been around for more than 30 years.

Trial is set for Jan. 16 in federal court in Memphis, Tenn.

"We're pleased that we'll finally be able to present our case," Kellogg spokeswoman Chris Ervin said.

Shares of Kellogg rose 25 cents to $24.94, while Exxon Mobil stock dropped $2.69 to $87.81 per share in trading yesterday. Shares of both companies trade on the New York Stock Exchange.

Kellogg contends Exxon retired its tiger in the 1980s, but then came out with new ads in the 1990s featuring a revised tiger promoting various food and convenience items sold at Exxon gas stations.

In a suit filed four years ago, Kellogg claimed the new tiger promotions infringe on the Tony trademark because Exxon was now using its unnamed tiger to sell food, not gasoline. Kellogg said consumers are confused by the similarity between the cartoon tigers and may conclude that Kellogg is somehow behind soda, coffee and other items for sale at Exxon's TigerMart stores.

Shoppers can tell the difference, Exxon spokesman Tom Cirigliano countered yesterday.

"The Exxon cartoon tiger has peacefully coexisted with a number of tiger trademarks, including Tony, for many, many years," Cirigliano said. "We're quite confident that consumers recognize the Exxon cartoon tiger and do not confuse it with Tony the Tiger."

He would not speculate on the financial consequences to Exxon if it loses and is required to stop using the tiger to sell food. Kellogg is not trying to stop Exxon from using the figure to sell gasoline.

Tony the Tiger debuted in 1952 and has appeared on every box of Kellogg's Frosted Flakes since. …

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