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Berkshire's Brooks running unit sues Brooks Brothers over trademark

NEW YORK, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Brooks, the running shoe and apparel unit of billionaire Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc, filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Brooks Brothers, pitting two companies whose roots date back more than a century against each other.

In a complaint filed on Monday night, Brooks challenged Brooks Brothers’ alleged effort to block it from registering its own trademark in the United States and other countries.

It also challenged Brooks Brothers’ Dec. 30, 2019, trademark application to use “Brooks,” without “Brothers,” on eight categories of items, including clothing and sporting goods, as well as on retail stores.

According to the complaint, Brooks Brothers’ actions, including its sale of athletic footwear beginning in 2018, will confuse consumers, damage Brooks’ own marks, and undermine a 1980 “coexistence” trademark agreement between the companies.

Brooks Brothers did not immediately respond on Tuesday to requests for comment.

Brooks sued in the federal court in Seattle, where it is based. It is seeking damages, including for breach of contract, and to halt any infringements by Brooks Brothers.

Founded in 1914, Brooks said it is the top-selling running shoe brand in specialty running stores, with more than $1.2 billion worth of retail purchases in 2019.

It was acquired by Berkshire’s Fruit of the Loom unit in 2006, and spun out as a separate company in 2012. Adidas, Asics and Nike are among its rivals.

“We will aggressively protect our intellectual property and defend the investment that’s created our valuable brand,” Brooks Chief Executive Jim Weber said in a statement.

Privately held Brooks Brothers was founded in 1818, and says it is the oldest U.S. clothing retailer.

The New York-based company says it has outfitted 40 of the 45 U.S. presidents, including John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln, who wore one of its frock coats on the night he was fatally shot at Ford’s Theatre in Washington.

The case is Brooks Sports Inc v Brooks Brothers Group Inc, U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington, No. 20-00207. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York)