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Watertown’s Car-Freshner claims federal trademark infringement

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Car-Freshner Corp. has filed a federal trademark infringement lawsuit against a California company that it claims is selling scented automotive sprays under the same name patented by the Watertown company for spray air fresheners.

Car-Freshner, which has its headquarters in the Jefferson County Corporate Park, filed suit Thursday in U.S. District Court, Syracuse, against Surf City Garage Inc., Huntington Beach., Calif., claiming that the company “is undoubtedly familiar” with Car-Freshner’s trademarks and previously has “been caught appropriating” Car-Freshner’s intellectual property.

At issue is the use of the name “Black Ice,” which Car-Freshner has patented for use on its well-known “Little Trees” air fresheners, as well as on spray fresheners offered in both cans and bottles. According to the suit, Surf City Garage offers auto detailer in spray bottles under the Black Ice name and a tire gloss in a squeeze bottle under the name.

It is claimed that Surf City Garage’s products are offered for sale on the company’s website and at automotive retailers nationwide.

Car-Freshner claims Surf City Garage’s use of the Black Ice name dates back to at least February 2010, when the California company allegedly advertised its air fresheners with the promotional slogan, “Now you can finally say goodbye to that overpowering pine tree.” It further is claimed that in December 2010, Surf City Garage filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to register Black Ice in connection with products that clean and protect exterior vehicle surfaces.

According to the suit, the patent office issued a “final” refusal to allow Surf City Garage to register the Black Ice trademark, citing the likelihood that doing so would cause confusion with Car-Freshner’s trademarked products.

The trademark examiner said that the final refusal was “not only to prevent buyer confusion as to the source of the goods, but to protect the registrant from adverse commercial impact due to use of similar mark by a newcomer.” A request for reconsideration of the ruling filed by Surf City Garage also was denied, but the products are still being offered for sale, Car-Freshner claims.

Car-Freshner is asking a judge to order, among other things, that the California company stop infringing on its trademark and either destroy or turn over to Car-Freshner any products bearing the trademarked name.

The company also is seeking an unspecified amount in damages.

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