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Muhammad Ali Company Sues Kobo Over ‘Butterfly’ Slogan

July 14 (Bloomberg) -- Muhammad Ali Enterprises LLC accused digital bookseller Kobo Inc. in a lawsuit of using the former boxer’s “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” slogan in an advertisement without permission.

The trademark-infringement complaint, filed yesterday in federal court in Manhattan, alleges that Toronto-based Kobo improperly used the slogan last month in a New York Times advertisement for its eReader, an electronic book-reading device.

Ali’s slogan is a registered trademark, which is licensed to third parties, according to the complaint. Ali, 69, seeks a court order blocking Kobo’s use of the slogan and unspecified damages.

The advertisement “made commercial use of the Muhammad Ali slogan and Muhammad Ali’s name without permission from or compensation to Muhammad Ali Enterprises,” according to the complaint.

The slogan and Ali’s name was the most prominent wording on the advertising page, and underneath the expression, according to the complaint, the ad read: “Lightweight. Powerful. Intuitive. The new Kobo eReader Touch Edition. Just in time for Father’s Day.”

Kobo, in an e-mailed statement, said the company’s legal team is handling the matter and declined to comment further.

Ali won 56 of 61 professional boxing matches, 37 by knockout, during a 21-year career that saw him crowned heavy-weight champion of the world three times, according to ESPN.com. He retired in 1981.

The case is Muhammad Ali Enterprises v. Kobo Inc., 11-04825, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

To contact the reporter on this story: Joel Rosenblatt in San Francisco at jrosenblatt@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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