Reprinted from The Dallas Morning News
Thursday, January 30, 1997 © 1997 Associated Press, All Rights Reserved.
Designer dashes Motorola in war over Flip-Clip
By Ben Dobbin of Associated Press
ROCHESTER, N.Y. A lone entrepreneur, who designed a dashboard holder for a cellular phone and called it the Flip Clip, has finally triumphed in his trademark feud with Motorola Inc. Motorola, which calls some of its cellular telephones flip phones, dropped its opposition to design engineer Garry Haltof's trademark of Flip Clip.
Motorola, the world's largest cell-phone maker, settled with Haltof on terms that both sides agreed to keep confidential.
Motorola failed to obtain a trademark for flip phone, a coinage that GTI Corp. let lapse in 1993. Last spring, the trademark office decided the term is commonly used by cell-phone makers.
Before the settlement, Haltof said Motorola had initially offered a possible deal and then tried to crowd him out by contesting his trademark while developing upgraded cradles of its own.
Motorola confirmed a settlement with Haltof this week.
Haltof, 50, spent most of his career with small companies, amassing 10 patents for credit card validation and window-balance gizmos before going it alone as an engineering consultant a decade ago.
Haltof bought a pocket cellular telephone in late 1993, then realized he had no place in his car to hang it up. He returned to the store, decided the brisk-selling phone holders were poorly designed and built one himself.
When he went to Motorola in March 1994, he said managers seemed intrigued with his prototype. Instead of a button, it employs a pull-release bracket that fastens the phone securely in place but lets motorists remove it with ease.
In spring 1995, Haltof said the Schaumburg, Ill.-based company turned down his price for 100,000 Flip Clips. Having invested more than $50,000, he began seeking other distributors.
Months later, to his dismay, Motorola sought to squash his trademark, and Haltof had to hire lawyers.
Meanwhile, Motorola trademarked Flip Clip in Canada and Mexico to cut Haltof off from markets there. Now Haltof plans to trademark his product in those countries and elsewhere.
Denied the biggest supply line to the nation's consumers, Haltof has sold only about 10,000 cradles and profits have been slim. With the settlement, he is confident of snaring other large wholesalers.