US: Of Dr. Seuss and Coal Gasification

Publisher Name: 
NY Times

The company that protects the copyrights on the works of Theodor
Geisel, better known as the children's book author Dr. Seuss, has sent
a cease-and-desist letter to a Massachusetts company looking to get
into the coal business under the name Lorax - the title character of a
story published in 1971.

"There's no reason for them to use the term," said Karl ZoBell, the longtime lawyer for Dr. Seuss Enterprises,
"except to purloin the good will attached to the book and use it for a
company that appears to be the opposite of everything the book is
about."

"The Lorax" is considered an allegory about the importance of protecting the environment and the perils of unchecked industrialization.

The company, calling itself LoraxAG,
is a startup based in Marlborough, Mass., seeking to develop a
"shovel-ready coal gasification and chemical production facility to
make fertilizer for America's farms," according to the company's Web
site.

In November, the magazine Massachusetts High Tech reported that LoraxAG had acquired $4.5 million in its first round of institutional funding.

>Representatives of the company did not immediately return phone calls and e-mail queries.
The company's president, Mike Farina, told Massachusetts High Tech that
the company has "altruistic" motives and that it will use existing
technologies in new ways, allowing them to turn coal into something
clean and useful.

"We like this project because of what we can bring to a part of the
country that can really use some economic development," said Mr.
Farina, adding that they purposely looked to Dr. Seuss to name their
company.

"The Lorax is the protector of the truffula trees," he told the publication. "We think this is the greenest use of coal.

Mr. ZoBell said that while that may or may not be true, it is still
using coal and, regardless, "we do not license the use of Dr. Seuss's
works for other companies to make a profit.

"They should be creative enough to come up with their own name for
their company," he said. "Dr. Seuss coined this phrase. The term did
not exist until he invented it."

Mr. ZoBell said that the courts "tend to be particularly protective
of trademarks" where invented phrases and terms are involved.

The company had not responded to the cease-and-desist letter by
midday Monday, according to Mr. ZoBell, who added that his office would
reach out to LoraxAG again and then, if necessary, seek relief - and
possibly damages - from the courts.

"I am amazed that nobody suggested to them that this is a bad idea," he said.

In an e-mail message to
Green Inc., LoraxAG's chief executive, Joshua E. Davidson, simply said:
"We have not received a cease-and-desist letter and, as such, have no
further comment."

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