By Martin Vedris
Skunkworks Pacific, a Perth-based supplier of flat screen TV mounting products, has just defeated Lockheed Martin, the world’s leading military contractor and maker of the Stealth Bomber, in a trademark case over the use of the term ‘Skunkworks’.
Lockheed Martin first started using the term Skunk Works in 1943 when it set up a team of engineers to rush the development of the first operational jet fighter to be used by the USA’s defence forces — the XP-80, which Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works team made from scratch in 143 days.
Since then, Lockheed Martin has vigorously defended its rights to the term in markets all over the world.
In a statement from Skunkworks Pacific, the company said that Lockheed Martin claimed that Skunkworks Pacific’s use of the Skunkworks terms was deceptively similar to their own use of the term.
According to the statement, Lockheed Martin launched its action against Skunkworks three years ago, via a series of legal threats, which resulted in a protracted, mediated legal wrangle through IP Australia, the Australian trademarks and patents office.
Lockheed Martin allegedly cited various claims of ‘abusive use of the “Skunk Works” name’.
Skunkworks Pacific said that it did not involve lawyers and defended itself during the lengthy proceedings, whilst Lockheed Martin was reportedly represented by leading legal firms in the US and Australia.
Lockheed Martin’s main argument that there would be “confusion” over the use of the ‘Skunk Works’ name.
In opposition, Skunkworks Pacific aimed to demonstrate that there would be no possible confusion or connection between people purchasing flat screen TV mounting products with Lockheed Martin’s core business of aeronautical and military products.
In a David and Goliath story, IP Australia ruled in favour of the little guys.
On 22 May IP awarded the trademark to Skunkworks. According to Skunkworks Pacific, only three companies (including Skunkworks’ sister operation in the UK) have successfully won the right to use ‘Skunkworks’ in their URLs. Skunkworks Pacific is claiming it is the first in history to have been successfully awarded a trademark using the term Skunkworks.
“This is clearly a ‘David and Goliath’ type victory,” said Skunkworks Pacific spokesman, Lou Schillaci.
“It means we can now take positive steps forward and action our plans for expansion that will take us into new markets, particularly the US.
“It was nerve-wracking being up against such a formidable company considering we’re a small Australian business. Having said that though, we couldn’t see any reason why we didn’t have a right to use the Skunkworks mark so we feel completely vindicated.”
A delegate of the Registrar at IP Australia, has directed that this trademark application be registered on or before 13 June 2008.
Full details of this decision are available on the Skunkworks website: www.skunkworks.com.au