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Lycos, Labrador in dogfight

What the Web portal considers to be a catchy, cute promotion for its search engine, another high-tech firm sees as potentially injurious.

A Massachusetts lawsuit is turning into a dog-eat-dog situation.

What Web portal Lycos considers to be a catchy, cute promotion for its Web search engine, another high-tech firm sees as potentially injurious to its product line.

Labrador Software today filed a complaint in United States District Court in Boston against Web portal network Lycos, alleging that Lycos's most recent multimillion publicity campaign featuring a Labrador retriever was infringing on its brand. Labrador Software products, such as E-Retriever, are tagged with the silhouette of a Labrador retriever running in mid-stride.

"We feel [that Lycos], with the power they have in the marketplace and what they're putting behind [their marketing efforts], is undermining [our] product and brand," said Joe Furrier, cofounder of Labrador Software, which, like Lycos, is based in Massachusetts. "We've got to defend who we are--and our product and our name."

The complaint alleged furthermore that Lycos had "intentionally," and "willfully" committed federal trademark infringement when it waged its $25 million campaign, according to a Labrador statement.

Lycos, however, firmly denied the allegations.

"We think this case is frivolous and without merit," said Michelle Perry, a company spokeswoman. "We did a trademark search, and felt we were on very sturdy ground."

As for the dog issue, Perry added, "Our dog and their dog don't look anything alike."