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Five months after Fowler White in Miami filed a federal trademark infringement suit against its namesake to the north, Fowler White in Tampa has struck back with a counter punch. Tampa-based Fowler, White, Gillen, Boggs, Villareal and Banker last month filed its own trademark infringement suit against Fowler, White, Burnett, Hurley, Banick & Strickroot in Miami seeking to protect its moniker and eliminate any confusion between the two. The dueling suits mar what long had been a policy of peaceful coexistence. The firms’ history dates back some 60 years to a time when Cody Fowler and Morris White formed the Tampa law firm, which then specialized in insurance defense and maritime and admiralty law. That same year, Fowler also opened an office in Miami. Each office continued to grow until 1969, when they split and three firms were formed, two of them using the Fowler and White names. Relations remained cordial until February, when Fowler White in Miami sued Fowler White in Tampa alleging it had broken a 30-year-old verbal agreement not to use the abbreviated name. Not only had the Tampa office started using the shorter name on firm stationary and in advertising, but it also filed an application for a federal trademark. The suit filed in U.S. District Court in Miami by the Miami firm, alleged that, despite written demands, the Tampa firm refused to withdraw its application or stop using the name. Its use, argued Fowler White in Miami, would only result in confusion. True, says Fowler White in Tampa, but if anyone should be using the name, it is the office to the north. “It is Fowler-Miami that is the junior user and the infringer,” says the Tampa office in its answer to the lawsuit. In its countersuit, Fowler-Tampa claims that it has been using the shortened version of the name since 1970 and that it had granted Fowler-Miami “an implied license” to use the name, which it now claims has been terminated. Phone calls to Fowler White-Tampa were not returned by deadline. Despite the obvious contention, insists John Strickroot, a managing partner at Fowler White in Miami, there is hope for a resolution. “There have been settlement discussions and we are optimistic it will be resolved,” Strickroot said. “We are hoping everyone will be able to use the Fowler White name.”

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