Charged dispute: Kraftwerk sues electric firm for name
The frontman of German electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk has sued a company for dubbing its new electric smartphone charger with the same name as the band.
In a lawsuit filed in a US court Monday, Ralf Hutter said that "kraftwerk" -- which means a power station in German -- was closely identified with the band known for mechanized-sounding songs such as "We Are the Robots" and "The Man-Machine."
The German company eZelleron Inc. in January started a crowd-funding campaign to launch a kraftwerk, billed as an innovative and lightweight charger for smartphones, tablets and cameras which generates its own power with the same fuel used in lighters and camping stoves.
The company said it hoped to launch the kraftwerk charger in late 2015.
"Consumers are likely to assume that there is a connection, association or relationship between the famous electronic music band and a charger for portable musical-playing devices," said the lawsuit filed in a federal court in the eastern state of Delaware, where eZelleron has a US base.
Hutter presented a lengthy list of items for which he said he held the trademark registration for Kraftwerk's name, ranging from shirts and CDs to bow-ties and toilet paper.
Hutter called for the court to stop eZelleron from using the name and for an unspecified amount in damages along with legal costs.
The company rejected the accusation in the lawsuit, saying that the German word "kraftwerk" was an apt description that explained the product.
"We do not see any risk of confusion with the band name," Sascha Kuhn, CEO of eZelleron, said in a statement on Tuesday, stressing that his company has learned about the lawsuit through media reports.
"Our pocket power plant uses customary lighter gas to generate power. We therefore don't understand Mr. Hutter's argument that our power plant -- which like any other power plant generates electricity -- cannot be named power plant," Kuhn said.
The company said it has already generated more than $1.5 million from 11,600 donors through the campaign on funding site Kickstarter.
Kraftwerk, formed by Hutter and Florian Schneider, emerged in Dusseldorf in the 1970s and broke new ground in popular music, with a robotic sound that put the human element in the shadows.
Kraftwerk has resumed touring in recent years and has been especially active in lobbying against nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.
© 2015 AFP