Business News Legal

Kraftwerk founder fights the power (supply manufacturer)

By | Published on Tuesday 10 March 2015


Kraftwerk co-founder Ralf Hutter has launched a trademark infringement lawsuit against a German company called eZelleron over a fuel cell it plans to manufacture, following a successful Kickstarter campaign, called… Kraftwerk.

Hutter, who owns the trademark to the Kraftwerk name in multiple territories in various fields, believes that eZelleron’s chosen name for its product suggests some sort of endorsement on his part.

eZelleron might reasonably argue that it chose the name because it means ‘power station’ in German. For example, if we were in Germany right now, one of us might reasonably say, “Schauen Sie sich das Kraftwerk an”, or “Das Kraftwerk steht in Flammen”, or “Alle weglaufen, es gab einen schrecklichen Unfall im Kraftwerk”. Not in America, though. And not because they have higher safety standards. No, because most people don’t speak German there.

But what does that matter? Ralf Hutter is German, eZelleron is German, let’s all just keep this German, shall we? No, because – perhaps because of the whole ‘word in common German usage’ thing – Hutter has chosen to sue in the US.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, rather than try to force a German company to stop using a German word as the name for a German product in a German speaking country, where trademark rules might not apply in this case, instead Hutter is going after America internet companies.

He is demanding that US internet service providers and crowdfunding platforms be barred from displaying references to eZelleron’s Kraftwerk in order to avoid confusion amongst consumers who don’t know that ‘kraftwerk’ has another meaning aside from the band’s name.

It seems a fairly optimistic claim, but it will be interesting to see how this plays out. Possibly Hutter is hoping to force a settlement from the $1.5 million eZelleron has just raised, by scaring the company into believing it might not be able to promote the product internationally once it has been produced.