Home > Reading Room > GCaptain.com begrudgingly concedes in suit over 150-year-old nautical symbol

GCaptain.com begrudgingly concedes in suit over 150-year-old nautical symbol

Written by Mark Reed on 10 June 2018

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The international load line symbol that appears on the hull of ships was at the route of a dispute after a seafarer’s merchandising company begrudgingly agreed to remove the age-old symbol when another company disputed that they owned the Trade Mark for the symbol. 

GCaptain.com are a Californian based maritime website that sell posters, mugs and even t-shirts with the symbol on it. Over 150-years-ago this symbol started being used to mark the waterline on a ship’s hull which provides the legal limit that they can be loaded, taking into account the various seas that a vessel may pass through.

However, a North Carolina based company called Plimsoll Gear registered a Trade Mark for this symbol in the United States, Canada, Australia and Europe. This meant that they were within their rights to enforce action for infringement on GCaptain.com.

The big question raised by the owner of GCaptain.com, John Konrad, was “how on earth a mark as historic and important as the Plimsoll Mark be trademarked? Was it a mistake made by the US Patent and Trademark Office? Will shipping companies be asked to pay a fee or remove the mark from the sides of their ships?”

Ultimately, GCaptain.com were advised to just save an awful lot of cost by simply complying with the request of Plimsoll Gear. Plimsoll use this nautical mark on a variety of products as well, including such variance as putting this logo on magnets but also on plastic license plates. Among other products.

Interestingly, as it has been explained, this dispute was all stopped because of concern of cost, and even though it was argued to be ridiculous that such an old but common symbol could be trademarked, the lawyers acting for Plimsoll Gear actually admitted that the two symbols being disputed are “not identical to the one shown in his client’s registration” but he believes it is, “similar enough that a purchaser could confuse one version for the other.” This is ultimately why GCaptain.com couldn’t balance up the odds of risk of losing the suit and conceded.

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