The University of Kentucky and Lorillard Inc. have settled a trademark dispute after the school opposed the tobacco company's use of "Blu Nation" for its e-cigarette loyalty program.
The Greensboro, North Carolina-based company said Tuesday it has reached a non-financial agreement that will allow both parties to use their respective slogans "Blu Nation" and "Big Blue Nation."
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Last week, the university filed an opposition with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office over the slogan. In the filing, the Lexington, Kentucky, school said it has used its slogan since at least as early as 1995 and has "become well-known and famous" by the university's athletic fan base. It was concerned the association between the slogans would harm its reputation, cause confusion and falsely associate the university with the company, especially since both offer goods such as T-shirts with the slogan.
Phone messages left with the university seeking comment were not immediately returned.
According to its website, "Blu Nation" is a program that keeps e-cigarette users informed about events such as music festivals, as well as legislation regarding the electronic devices that heat liquid nicotine to create vapor that users inhale. The program also rewards customers for their loyalty by allowing them to redeem points for merchandise, including clothing, glassware and iPhone covers.
Lorillard has agreed to sell the blu brand to Imperial Tobacco Group to ease regulatory concerns about competition related to its planned $25 billion takeover by Reynolds American Inc. In addition to the e-cigarette brand, the companies also plan to sell the Kool, Salem, Winston, Maverick cigarette brands to Imperial for $7.1 billion.
Michael Felberbaum can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/MLFelberbaum.