Thursday, November 9, 2006 at 3:55 pm

UP Trademark Dispute Settled

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Tempting fate ... Union Pacific didn’t make itself many friends with its trademark licensing program. Begun in 2002, it required model railroad manufacturers to pay a royalty for products made with the Union Pacific insignias — including the insignias of railroads since absorbed by Union Pacific (i.e., the Chicago and Northwestern, Denver and Rio Grande Western, Katy, Missouri Pacific, Southern Pacific and Western Pacific) — and to provide business information about those products. It’s why a model locomotive in UP paint frequently costs $5 more than the same model in BNSF paint.

Some model railroad manufacturers resisted the licensing program, and Union Pacific began filing lawsuits in 2004. That didn’t go over well with the model railroading community either (many of whom suggested that UP had better things to do than sue manufacturers, like, oh, doing something about getting traffic moving on their clogged lines). Athearn and Lionel settled. But Mike’s Train House, no stranger to litigation (just ask Broadway Limited), decided to defend itself when its turn to be sued came last year.

The end result of which was a settlement reached last week and announced yesterday, Model Railroader reports on its MR Express web site (see also the joint MTH/UP press release here and here). Astonishingly, the agreement covers not just MTH but, in a shocking bout of altruism, the entire model railroad industry, who will no longer have to pay royalties and who will receive an industry-wide, perpetual licence to build models in UP’s image (and that of its amalgamated lines). But there are some terms, including the requirement to maintain high standards — in keeping with UP’s concern, if I remember correctly, that their logo not be featured on junk.

A surprising and surprisingly happy end to story that got a lot of hobbyists riled. Via ldsig.

Update, 4:35 PM: on the settlement.

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