SEATTLE, January 13, 2015 --
Seattle-Based Company Fells Voss Water in Trademark Suit

Seattle-based Perlage Systems, Inc. announced today that it has beaten back a trademark suit brought by Voss of Norway A.S.A, a bottled-water producer based in Oslo, Norway.

At issue in the suit was Perlage Systems’ Perlini Cocktail Carbonating System, a product designed for carbonating alcoholic beverages. One component of the system is a pressurizable, clear cocktail shaker with a roughly cylindrical shape. The system, which carries a three-figure price tag, is distributed directly by the company, primarily to restaurants and bars.

Voss claimed that the Perlini shaker violated their trademark on the bottle that Voss water is packaged in, which is also clear and cylindrical in shape. Voss claimed the cylindrical shape is central to their trademark.

Evan Wallace, President and CEO of Perlage Systems, dismissed the suit as frivolous. “Trademark disputes hinge on handful of surprisingly common-sense legal principles,” he said from his Seattle office. For Voss to make a case, Wallace explained, they would have had to have shown—at the very least—that Perlini and Voss water are in overlapping product categories, and sold through overlapping trade channels to overlapping markets.

“Most critically, evidence of actual consumer confusion between the two products must be shown,” he said. “Voss produced exactly zero evidence of consumer confusion, because there is exactly zero overlap between the two products,” Wallace said.

In a pre-trial settlement, Voss was forced to drop all demands for license fees, cash penalties, and a modification of the design of the Perlini shaker. In return, Perlage Systems agreed to suspend its counterclaim seeking to invalidate the Voss trademark entirely. The terms of the settlement do not preclude Perlage Systems from pursuing this action in the future.

“It’s ridiculous that Voss thinks they can continue to protect a trademark on the cylinder, one of the most common geometrical shapes in the universe,” Wallace said. “But it is beyond absurd that Voss thinks there could be any confusion in a customer’s mind as to whether they are buying a $3 bottle of overpriced water or a $600 restaurant appliance for carbonating cocktails. This was nothing more than corporate harassment.”

Perlage Systems was represented in the suit by DLA Piper’s Stellman Keehnel, a preeminent Seattle intellectual property and technology litigation attorney. “Mr. Keehnel’s expertise was instrumental in leveling the playing field against a much larger opponent,” according to Wallace.

“In fact, it might have tilted the playing field too much—it was a real smack-down against Voss.”

Voss was represented by Minneapolis-based national law firm Merchant & Gould. The federal suit was filed in the United States District Court in Seattle.

“This was a classic David and Goliath story,” Wallace mused. “Voss is hundreds of times bigger than we are. I hope they’ll think twice next time before they try to bully another small company.”

  • Jan 13, 2015
  • Category: News
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