The Walkerville Weekly Reader

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Walkerville, VA
Monday, July 8, 2024
Carolyn Purcell, Editor

Businesses line up to pay stealth trademark fines

Major businesses are rushing to Leo Stoller to encourage wider reading of trademark law.

Major United States trademark holders are capitulating to demands by an eccentric trademark holder who is making claims on common words in the English language. Mr. Leo Stoller claims trademark on all uses of the word “stealth”, for example, and regularly requests web sites and companies that use the word remove it from their writing and their products. Mr. Stoller tends to do this whether or not the use of the word infringes on his product’s place in the market under normal trademark law. According to Mr. Stoller, his “close association” with the word gives him special rights. “We’re entitled to own it with all goods and services,” he said. “We were there first.”

Mr. Stoller says his companies have been in federal court 60 times to defend his trademarks, but there is no record within the Lexis database of a federal court decision on “stealth” in his favor. Despite Stoller’s abysmal record in court, many major companies are settling with Mr. Stoller out of principle.

“It may not be what trademark is,” explained Panasonic trademark lawyer Warren J. Rottwiler, “but it is what trademark law should be.”

Microsoft Corporation, which saw a public relations fiasco last year when it moved against Canadian teen and software programmer Mike Rowe, announced that they were also going to pay a $10 fine to Mr. Stoller even without being sued, and also renounce the use of the word “stealth” in all products, out of solidarity with Mr. Stoller. “If our actions make for a more business-friendly trademark climate,” said Microsoft trademark lawyer Moses Napoleon, “we’ll consider that $10 an investment.”

Napoleon noted that Microsoft would prefer to block all use of the word “Windows” to describe operating systems that use windows to display documents and applications. “And if we can block all use of the term ‘windows’ to describe any transparent or partially-transparent device installed in walls to admit light or air, well, that would be very friendly to our business.”

“This is just another cost of doing business,” said Rottwiler. “We can afford it.”

“Exactly,” said Napoleon. “The more costs there are to starting up a business, the harder it is to compete against us.”

"If we can change public perception of trademarks without going to congress we’re better off," said Rottwiler. “We’d like to trademark all uses of the phrase ‘consumer electronics’, for example. We think we invented it.”

The best-known stealth brand may be the military’s B2 stealth bomber, whose main contractor, Northrop Grumman paid Mr. Stoller $10 and agreed to abandon its trademark applications to use “stealth bomber” in spinoff products like model airplanes and video games.

“We resolved it in a way that achieved our business purpose,” said Tom Henson, a Northrop Grumman spokesman.

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