Webster's defines "clipper" as "a fast sailing ship; one with long, slender lines, an overhanging bow, tall raking masts, and a large sail area." Because they "clipped" sailing times, the vessels briefly dominated shipping in the mid-1800s. The ships have long fascinated Mikael Krafft, founder of Miami-based Star Clippers, and they were the model for his two 180-passenger sailing cruise ships, the Star Flyer and the Star Clipper.
But nautical precision, it seems, is no defense in trademark law. A St. Louis operator of motor yachts, Clipper Cruise Line, is trying to force Star Clippers to drop the second part of its name. A St. Louis federal judge has upheld Clipper Cruise's complaint and enjoined Star Clippers from using the offending word. Noting that dozens of other companies, including cruise lines, include "clipper" in their names, Star Clippers has appealed. Krafft figures the judge's ruling just won't hold water.