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Laguna Beach Firm Target of 'Who's Who' Trademark Suit

March 10, 2001|From Bloomberg News

Reed Elsevier Inc., which publishes "Who's Who in America" and other biographical directories, has filed a lawsuit accusing a rival company in Laguna Beach of appropriating the "Who's Who" trademark for its own directories.

The lawsuit contends that Reed Elsevier Inc., a unit of Reed Elsevier Plc, the world's largest publisher of scientific journals, has secured a series of U.S. trademarks for its directories since first publishing "Who's Who in America" in 1899.

It alleges that John L. Pellam formed two companies, Baron's Who's Who and Baron's Who's Who (USA) to compete with Reed Elsevier's books. Pellam's publications have solicited people listed in the Reed Elsevier books for information, and has printed books that appear "virtually identical" to Reed Elsevier's, the suit claims.

"Through their use of confusingly similar trademarks, confusingly similar trade dress, and their sales misrepresentations, false advertising, and deceptive practices, defendants are seeking to capitalize on and to rely on the fame of the Reed marks," said the federal lawsuit, which was filed in Newark, N.J.

The lawsuit said that Reed Elsevier Inc., based in Newton, Mass., publishes such directories as "Who's Who in the World" and "Who's Who in Finance and Industry."

It said that Pellam's Laguna Beach companies publish such titles as "Who's Who of the World" and "Who's Who in Global Banking & Financing." The lawsuit alleges that Pellam's firms falsely imply a relationship with Reed Elsevier, and that they use the names listed in the Reed Elsevier books to contact people for biographical information and potential sales.

The complaint asks a judge to order a recall of all written materials that infringe on the Reed Elsevier trademarks and to bar the Pellam firms from using the "Who's Who" phrase. It also asks the judge to bar the Pellam firms from contacting anyone listed in the Reed Elsevier directories.

Pellam did not return a phone call seeking comment.

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