If you bought a Tron-brand fuse for your home fusebox, would you think it was somehow related to the hit movie of the same name?
McGraw-Edison Co., which has been making Tron fuses for the past quarter century, is worried that you would. So it filed suit in federal district court in Chicago asking that Walt Disney Productions stop using the name and stop licensing products bearing it.
"We're asking in the suit for them to change the name of the movie, to drop the name 'Tron,' " said Morrison Newell, a spokesman for McGraw-Edison, a large electrical equipment maker based in Rolling Meadows, Ill.
A Disney spokesman would not comment on the suit, beyond saying that the company would fight it "vigorously." Disney has filed a countersuit in federal district court in New York aiming to clear up which company has rights to the name. The spokesman would not say how Disney came up with the name Tron, saying it might be part of the lawsuit.
Newell said that McGraw-Edison has been using the trademark "Tron" since the late 1950s on electrical fuses, fuse holders and fuse clips. Several thousand of the company's products bear the name in some form, he said.
"Disney Studios was aware some time before the release of the movie that we had the patent or the trademark on the word 'Tron,' " Newell said.
"Tron" the movie is a futuristic tale in which an electronics expert is trapped in his computer and forced to play a vicious electronic game to escape. It opened to mixed reviews earlier this month, including generally negative reviews from a group of Wall Street analysts invited by Disney to a preview. Several of the analysts lowered their evaluations of Disney stock after seeing the film.
A spokeswoman for the federal Patents and Trademarks Office said it is possible for two different companies to trademark the same name for different products, so long as there is no obvious conflict. A spokeswoman for the federal Copyright Office said that while titles of movies cannot be copyrighted, they can be registered as trademarks for licensing purposes.
Disney has licensed the "Tron" name and images to about 40 other companies for various spin-off products.