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Exxon Sues Roxx Vodka

Exxon, one of the world’s largest corporations, is known for drilling, transporting, selling, and occasionally spilling (oops!) oil and gas. They have now turned their attention to a tiny vodka company going by the name Roxx.

Exxon’s trademark lawsuit relates primarily to the interlocking X’s in both companies’ logos. You can compare them in the image above.

An Exxon executive stated:

The public associates the three-stroke interlocking X design with ‘Exxon’ and ‘ExxonMobil,’ and they represent a valuable part of ExxonMobil’s branding.

There is, of course, no claim that Exxon’s oil and gas products are in the same channels of commerce with vodka and alcoholic beverages. Exxon isn’t in the booze business, and Roxx Vodka isn’t in the energy business. So Exxon’s claim amounts essentially to: if you interlock your X’s, watch out.

It’s beyond dispute that logos are entitled to trademark protection. McDonald’s golden arches is a classic example. But does the “XX” element of Exxon’s logo qualify for protection on its own?

This isn’t the first time Exxon has made this claim. They recently settled a lawsuit with Fox’s FXX network over the same issue.

Roxx Vodka appears to be a tiny company, so it’s likely that they won’t be able to finance a prolonged legal battle. Exxon, on the other hand, is worth about $350 billion, so their legal bills shouldn’t be a problem. I predict the case will settle and Roxx will change their logo.

What Have We Learned?

Exxon may or may not have the exclusive legal right to interlocking X’s in a logo. However, they’re clearly not afraid to enforce what they perceive as their trademark rights against unrelated companies large and small. Personally, I’d love to take on Exxon, but, as a practical matter, businesses who want to avoid significant legal bills should consider avoiding this feature in their logos.

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