SAN ANTONIO (CN) - Vietnam Battlefield Tours, a Texas nonprofit, sued a competing Virginia company in a federal trademark complaint.
San Antonio-based Vietnam Battlefield Tours claims Woodridge, Va.-based Military Historical Tours started using the registered trademark after the plaintiff made it popular.
Vietnam Battlefield Tours offers guided tours to Vietnam to veterans, their families and military historians. Its founders, some of whom previously worked as guides for Military Historical Tours, started the company in September 2005, according to the complaint.
Shortly thereafter, the company started advertising its tours on its website and in military magazines using the name and mark "Vietnam Battlefield Tours," according to the lawsuit.
"Since at least as early as 2005, Vietnam Battlefield Tours has been recognized by Vietnam veterans and their families as providing quality trips at an economic price so that Vietnam veterans and/or their families can see where their veterans served this country in the Vietnam war," the complaint states. "As a result, the mark Vietnam Battlefield Tours has become an asset of substantial value and goodwill as indicating the source of services offered by Vietnam Battlefield Tours."
Vietnam Battlefield Tours claims it spent significant time and resources advertising the Vietnam trips and developing its mark and reputation. It claims the customers, primarily Vietnam veterans and their families, have come to associate the trademark with its services.
"Based on information and belief, at no time prior to the year 2005 did Military Historical Tours use 'Vietnam Battlefield Tours' as a mark for any of the trips being offered by Military Historical Tours," the complaint states. "Military Historical Tours was concerned primarily with trips for World War II veterans, Korean War veterans and/or their families.
"After Vietnam Battlefield Tours became successful in the trips being sponsored for Vietnam veterans and their families to Vietnam, Military Historical Tours started attempting to imitate Vietnam Battlefield Tours and started offering trips to Vietnam under the name 'Vietnam Battlefield Tours.'"
Military Historical Tours tried to register the mark in August 2010, but Vietnam Battlefield Tours objected and won the administrative dispute, according to the complaint.
Vietnam Battlefield Tours claims Military Historical Tours falsely certified to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that it had continuously and exclusively used the trademark for five years before March 2011.
The U.S. PTO ruled for Vietnam Battlefield Tours, and issued its trademark registration in August 2013, according to the lawsuit.
The plaintiff claims that Military Historical Tours stopped using the "Vietnam Battlefield Tours" name and mark on its website, but continued using them in magazine advertisements to solicit business from Vietnam veterans throughout the United States.
It claims the infringement is likely to cause confusion, mislead the public, and misrepresent the nature and quality of its tours.
Vietnam Battlefield Tours seeks an injunction, lost profits and damages for trademark infringement and unfair competition, in Federal Court.
It is represented by Ted Lee with Gunn, Lee & Cave.
"After Vietnam Battlefield Tours won the administrative proceeding, we thought that was the end of that," Lee said in a telephone interview. "But they continued to run ads in magazines and that's what prompted this lawsuit.
"World War II veterans are fewer and fewer, and tours are decreasing in popularity," Lee added. "Vietnam veterans are in the age category taking most of these tours. Military Historical Tours started doing the Vietnam tours to make up for loss of revenue." Representatives for Military Historical Tours did not reply to requests for comment.
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