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Moorhead PSC gears up to fight GE

General Electric will likely get a cease and desist letter from Moorhead Public Service Commission after the corporate giant aired an ad using a phrase similar to one trademarked by the commission.

General Electric will likely get a cease and desist letter from Moorhead Public Service Commission after the corporate giant aired an ad using a phrase similar to one trademarked by the commission.

"Capture the Wind" is the trademarked name of Moorhead's wind energy program, Public Service Commission General Manager Bill Schwandt said.

A General Electric wind energy ad titled "Jar" uses a similar phrase. In the ad, a young boy takes a jar supposedly full of wind to a birthday party for, presumably, the boy's grandfather. The voiced tagline to the ad is "Capturing the wind and putting it to good use. Wind energy from GE: some of the cleanest renewable energy on earth."

"It's an intellectual property that we own," Schwandt said. The Public Service Commission staff developed and trademarked this phrase, he said.

Commission President Ken Norman said it appears to him and the commission's legal council that using the phrase is pretty clearly a case of infringement.

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Schwandt expects the commission to give the Fredrikson & Byron law firm the go-ahead Tuesday to pursue a resolution to the matter.

John Pickerill, an attorney with Fredrikson & Byron, said the letter would likely state that GE had infringed on the commission's trademark and request that it stop doing so.

The letter will probably go out this week or early next week, Schwandt said.

If the letter doesn't have the desired effect, Pickerill said, the PSC would have to explore other options, which could include trademark litigation. But he also said that in some cases the parties can reach an agreement so that each can use the trademark within defined parameters. Or, alternately, one party may license the use of the trademark to the other party.

Norman said he suspects that Connecticut-based GE was unaware of the conflict. But, by addressing this issue, the commission is protecting one of its assets, he said.

Trademarks "define who you are in the marketplace," Pickerill said.

GE Public Relations Director Deirdre Latour said she had not been made aware of the situation and, therefore, could not comment.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Shane Mercer at (701) 451-5734

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