Muhammad Ali, E-reader Kobo Settle Over Bee/Butterly Slogan

Boxing Gloves

An upstart e-reader firm picked the wrong fight when it decided to use boxing legend Muhammad Ali’s slogan without permission in a full-page ad in the New York Times (NYSE: NYT). Now, the boxer appears to have won a technical knock-out.

Muhammad Ali Enterprises LLC filed a trademark lawsuit this summer after Kobo Inc. used the words “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” in an advertisement. According to a Bloomberg report, the slogan and Ali’s name were the most prominent wording in the ad which was touting the new Kobo Touch as a Father’s Day gift. The bee/butterfly slogan has long been associated with Ali who won 35 knockouts before retiring in 1981.

In a filing made today in Manhattan federal court, the parties announced they were discontinuing the lawsuit. A lawyer for Kobo confirmed the parties had settled the case.

“The parties have reached a settlement in principle and we’re working on documenting that,” said Meaghan Crowley of Reed Smith.

The settlement may be tied to news earlier today that Toronto-based Kobo is being acquired for $135 million by Japanese e-commerce firm, Rakuten. Toronto-based Kobo (an anagram of book) is currently popular in Canada but is also trying to compete for shelf space in the exploding e-book market with Barnes & Noble’s Nook and Amazon’s Kindle. The Kobo Touch sells for $139.

Ali, whose original name was Cassius Clay, turns 70 next year. His accomplishments include a gold medal from the 1960 Olympics and the Presidential Medal of Freedom which was presented by President Bush in 2005 for the boxer’s humanitarian work.

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