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Coke Targets Small Business in Trademark Dispute

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August 30, 2004 -- Companies will go to great lengths to protect their names, like The Coca-Cola Co. The world's largest beverage maker filed an objection with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office last month seeking to stop a breast cancer survivor, who is trying to help fund golf lessons for disadvantaged children, from marketing her business with a name that Coke considers to sound similar to its own.

Virginia Richardson of Baltimore, Maryland, an Australian native, incorporated Kokie Koala in 1997 with the intention of selling golf club head covers. Her health problems put those plans on hold, but eventually she returned to the idea. In 2002, she attempted to trademark the name. However, Coke caught wind of the name and intervened.

After some failed attempts to resolve the dispute, Coke filed its objection in July. Richardson, who plans to give money from her business to help disadvantaged children learn golf, maintains that the inspiration for the name came from her favorite stuffed animal as a child, a koala that she named Kokie.

Richardson plans to fight the objection and has until September 14 to respond.




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