Salesforce.com recently launched a new product called Social Studio in spite of the fact that an existing, competing product had already used that name for years, marketing software vendor StrongView Systems alleges in a new trademark-infringement lawsuit.
Social Studio, which was launched in May, combines Salesforce.com's Radian6 social media monitoring software with its Buddy Media content publishing platform.
But StrongView had already obtained a trademark for that name in 2010, according to its lawsuit filed last week in US District Court for the Northern District of California.
Salesforce.com's Social Studio competes directly with StrongView's product of the same name, the suit states. In addition, Salesforce.com uses a similar colour scheme to one StrongView has used to promote its product suite, it adds.
Salesforce.com either "knew, or should have known of StrongView's prior use and established rights," the suit alleges. Even after notifying Salesforce.com in writing of its infringement, the vendor is still using the Social Studio brand name and the similar colour scheme, it adds.
StrongView's business has already been harmed by Salesforce.com's actions and will continue to be unless the court takes action, the suit claims, although it does not place a specific monetary value on the alleged damages.
The company wants the court to issue an injunction against Salesforce.com barring it from using the trademark, and to order that all Salesforce.com references and marketing materials bearing the Social Studio name be "disabled, removed and destroyed." It also wants a declaration that Salesforce.com knowingly infringed its trademark, and assorted damages.
A Salesforce.com spokeswoman said the company doesn't comment on pending litigation.
It's not clear how the dispute will shake out, but Salesforce.com's much deeper pockets could give it an edge in court over StrongView if the case isn't settled.
Don't expect a protracted legal battle, according to one observer.
"Most trademark disputes are quickly resolved, often because it is easier for an accused infringer to change marks than to litigate," said Scott Daniels, a partner with the Washington, DC, intellectual-property law firm Westerman, Hattori, Daniels and Adrian.
It's common for accused infringers to argue that a trademark is invalid, "though here the issuance of a registration for the mark makes that argument of invalidity quite difficult," Daniels added.