Judge sinks Super Duck tour name

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BOSTON (AP) – A new rival of the famous Boston Duck Tours was all wet when it choose a similar name and cartoon mascot, according to a federal judge, who on Friday ordered the company to call itself something different.

Super Duck Tours, which competes with Boston Duck Tours in offering land and water trips on amphibious vehicles, can’t use “duck tour” in its name, according to the ruling by U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton. It also can’t use a cartoon duck in its logo.

Gorton didn’t buy Super Duck Tours’ claim that it acted in good faith when it picked a name similar to its established competitor, famous for carrying the New England Patriots and Boston Red Sox during their championship victory parades.

“In this case, it is undisputed that Super Duck Tours was aware of Boston Duck Tours’ success in the Boston area,” Gorton wrote. “The Court concludes that Super Duck Tours’ intent is, at least, suspect.”

Super Duck Tours began carrying the land and water sightseers in Portland, Maine, in 2001 before its move to Boston. It argued that “duck tours” is a generic term for a particular amphibious sightseeing tour. It pointed to other regional duck tours, as well as 13 different trademarked duck tours. But Gorton ruled the term was not generic because the Boston Duck Tours’ name referred specifically to the DUKWs.

By Friday afternoon, Super Duck Tours had changed its name to Super Ducks. In a statement, owner Dennis Kraez, praised Gorton for rejecting Boston Duck Tours’ claim that his company was interfering with Boston Duck Tours’ business by harassing and misleading potential customers.

He also said Super Ducks would appeal the prohibition against using its duck logo.

“Tourism is vitally important to Boston,” Kraez said. “Tourists deserve different options to make their visit as enjoyable as possible.”

Cindy Brown, general manager of Boston Duck Tours, said she welcomed a quick resolution after the company sued early this month.

“We wanted to nip it in the bud before the confusion went on any longer,” she said.

Actual ducks aren’t the inspiration behind the Boston Duck Tours, whose name is a play on the World War II-era amphibious vehicles it uses called DUKWs.

The company, which has been in business 13 years, also uses a duck in its logo and its “conDUCKtors” encourage tourists to quack as they travel through the city, ending with a dip in the Charles River. The company said 585,000 people took a Boston Duck Tour last season.

Super Duck Tours, which started tours in May, uses more modern amphibious vehicles called Hydra-Terras that splash down in Boston Harbor.

Brown said the confusion for customers was immediate, with some even showing up at Boston Duck Tours carrying Super Duck Tours tickets they purchased on the Internet, thinking it was the same company. The company received about 40 complaints, and decided it had to sue for trademark infringement to protect its name, Brown said.

“We have spent a lot of time, money, effort, blood, sweat and tears building Boston Duck Tours and anything that puts a kink in that armor is just not acceptable to us,” she said.

Super Duck Tours also argued the logos and names weren’t similar because the cartoon ducks have different features – theirs wears a cape, Boston Duck Tours’ wears a cap – and the companies’ names have different first words. But Gorton said he was “unconvinced.”

“The slight differences between the two marks … are insufficient to overcome the striking similarity between the two,” he wrote.

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