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Porn site, Intel spar over blue door

An Internet company called Blue Door claims that the door in Intel's Pentium III ads is a trademark infringement. Is it an open and shut case?

Who's blue door is it?

An adult Web site is locked in a trademark dispute with Intel over the chip giant's advertising campaign for the Pentium III processor, which features a blue door. The conflict may spill into a lawsuit in the next month or two.

Blue Door, which sells adult videos and sexual devices online, claims that Intel's latest print and TV ads--which feature a large blue door with "Intel Inside" emblazoned on it-- infringe upon trademarks protecting Blue Door's business name and company symbol, which is, naturally, a blue door. Intel officials dispute the claim.

"We went through a lot of pain to get that name and get a federal trademark on it," said Gene Trent, chief executive of Blue Door. "Our traffic doubled on the exact date [February 28]," the campaign started, "and for the entire month of March it has stayed double."

Blue Door has contacted Intel about the alleged infringement but not filed a lawsuit. The "wild card" over whether or not to sue, said Trent, is whether two potential investors join with the company.

"They are used to taking on big companies like Microsoft and Intel," he said. Without these investors, a suit won't likely occur as it will be too expensive for the company to maintain, Trent added.

The dispute illuminates some of the difficulties erupting as the Internet and electronic commerce essentially make brand and business names universal commodities. In the realm of traditional commerce, Blue Door and Intel's blue door probably would never have crossed paths, Trent said. Now, however, people looking for Intel information are stumbling across the Blue Door site. Both Trent and Intel said that Intel inquired about the possibility of buying Blue Door's URL from the company in January.

And, although confusion has doubled traffic to the Blue Door site, it potentially hurts the business. Twice as many people are coming to the site than before, but twice as many are turning away immediately, he said. Outsiders are also getting the mistaken assumption "that we are ripping off Intel when you can argue that they ripped off us," Trent said.

The conflict dates back to early in the year. Intel inquired about the possibility of buying Blue Door's URL, but Trent turned down the offer. The company had only trademarked the name in November, and Trent said he was in no mood to sell.

After Intel's ads began to appear, Blue Door's attorneys sent a letter to Intel. The two sides have been arguing ever since.

For Intel's part, the company maintains that no trademark infringement has occurred. The potential for confusion between its campaign, products, and services and Blue Door's business are minimal. In addition, Intel's door is only coincidentally blue. The door in the ads is blue because it is Intel's corporate culture.

"Blue" itself is not an integral part of the ad copy or public URLs directing users to Pentium III sites. "We've got a blue door in the ad copy, but we draw people to www.intel.com," said Chuck Mulloy, an Intel spokesman.

Mulloy further added that Intel has not received complaints from parents about kids logging onto Blue Door's sites while looking for Pentium III information. Interestingly, Trent too has said that he has received no complaints about it. "I seriously doubt that we would get complaints," he said.