Texas city settles logo dispute with Dubai company

Updated at: 11/27/2013 2:35 PM
By BETSY BLANEY

(AP) LUBBOCK, Texas - Amarillo’s first-ever logo didn’t last long.

With white rays splaying out of an orange and yellow background, the logo with the name of the Texas Panhandle city stretched across it had already made its way onto banners, pencils and paperweights.

But just a couple of days after unveiling the logo at an event to kick off Amarillo’s 100th anniversary celebration, an email complaint arrived, alleging the logo’s design was ripped off from a Dubai real estate developer, Emaar Properties.

"To avoid legal liability please ensure that you immediately ... cease using the logo of Emaar and ... withdraw all items bearing said logo," company legal director Khaled Amin wrote in the Nov. 12 email obtained by the Amarillo Globe-News and posted on its website. The city was infringing on intellectual property rights, he said.

Amarillo City Attorney Marcus Norris then tried to get the company to allow the city to use the similar-looking logo. He argued the designs were different enough, including the colors _ Amarillo’s had three colors, while Emaar’s was gray. Only Amarillo’s had a slogan (Open Spaces. Endless Opportunities.) and there are vast differences between the two entities’ business arenas and influences, he said.

"Your sophisticated clients and potential clients are probably not likely to encounter the logo of our Texas municipality, or to confuse our city for that of your esteemed business," Norris wrote in an email, posted on the newspaper’s website. "Therefore, I am writing to kindly ask for your acquiescence for the City of Amarillo to use its new logo."

But Emaar, the developer of the world’s tallest building, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, disagreed.

Amin said the company’s registered trademark was tri-colored, just as the city’s was, and sent Norris an image of Emaar’s logo, according to the emails. The company filed for a U.S. trademark on its logo design in 2006, according to the U.S. Patent Office website.

The city eventually backed down. Last week, Norris emailed Amin to say Amarillo had decided to abandon its logo, while maintaining its design only resembled Emaar’s.

"Instead, we will seek an entirely new design," Norris wrote.

Norris didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment. Amin did not respond to an email request seeking comment, and calls to Emaar’s headquarters in Dubai and to an affiliated company in the U.S., named PACIFICA Real Estate Service Inc. in California, were not immediately returned.

Amarillo Mayor Paul Harpole said Tuesday that while the city could "technically and legally" use the logo, city council members decided to move forward. He said the city’s logo was "innocently created."

The Globe-News reported the city spent $12,386 to put the logo on various items to publicize the 100th anniversary.

The city, which has had an official seal but never a logo, is working with the newspaper to come up with a new design. The paper has gotten about 600 submissions for ideas from residents, Harpole said. That number will get winnowed down by the public in online voting through the paper’s website. A revote online will narrow the choices to 10, he said.

"A little faux pas in that (first attempt) but now we’re having fun correcting it," Harpole said. "The city will have the power to decide it."

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)