We’ve seen lots of build-up to the debut of Motorola’s Xoom tablet today, but — wouldn’t you know it — there’s always someone there to spoil the fun. Yesterday, the online payments company Xoom Corporation filed a case with the U.S. District Court for Northern California for trademark infringement against Motorola (NYSE: MOT) Mobility. It’s asking for a permanent injunction against the company, as well as a “temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction”. If successful, this could upset the launch of the first Android tablet that some people believe presents true competition to the Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) iPad.
The suit, filed by the firm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, alleges that Motorola Mobility has exhibited “willful and intentional conduct” in using the name. It is seeking treble damages in the case (the actual amount doesn’t appear to be specified).
But the odds seem to be in favor of Motorola here: There have been several trademark cases for high-profile smartphone products in recent years, but we have yet to see a product change its name as a result. When Apple first launched its iPhone, Cisco (NSDQ: CSCO) piped up about having offered a VoIP product with the same name. That was settled out of court, and the two agreed on co-usage again when Apple branded its mobile operating system iOS.
Google (NSDQ: GOOG), too, has fended off various accusations related to both Android and Nexus. The latest on Android was from Android Data and its founder Eric Specht, who was suing for nearly $100 million in damages over the use of the name. A judge threw that suit out last December.
As patent/trademark watcher Florian Mueller, who first brought this case to our attention, points out, the crux of the issue is whether the Xoom Corporation can demonstrate that there is a reasonable chance that someone might mistake Motorola’s tablet with the products of its own company. There is a possible opening there, if you consider what kinds of payment services Motorola might put in place for content and other goods/services purchased using the Xoom tablet.
However, the force of a trademark infringement claim gets a bit more diluted when you also consider that there is at least one other Xoom-named company in existence in the U.S. — an office supply outfit in Texas.
Yesterday, Motorola Solutions had a setback in another U.S. district court. It ruled in favor of plaintiffs Huawei in a case involving Huawei intellectual property present in Motorola’s networking business, which the company is trying to sell to Nokia (NYSE: NOK) Siemens Networks for $1.2 billion.