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Atlanta-based King & Spalding has asked a retailer to stop selling a doll marketed to gay men, claiming the figure infringes on one of its best-known client’s trademarks. The BPS Billy doll, an anatomically correct plastic figure, is dressed in a brown uniform with a package-shaped logo. Both accouterments are similar to the United Parcel Service’s trademark, King & Spalding lawyers say. The doll sells for $45.95 on BeProud.com, a Web site that touts itself as a “gay and lesbian online shopping mall.” In October, King & Spalding sent letters to California-based BeProud and London-based Billy doll manufacturer Totem International Ltd. asking both to cease and desist production and sales of BPS Billy in the brown uniform. K&S intellectual property partner Thomas H. Curtin also asked the companies to destroy all material with the “BPS” logo. The letter to BeProud went unanswered but Totem responded and promised it would stop making the dolls, according to Audy C. Morgan III, co-owner of BeProud. The first letter calls the doll “objectionable” and “noxious” and adds that it “tarnishes the affirmative associations long cultivated by our client in its distinctive trademarks.” The letter asks that BeProud deliver all the Billy doll uniforms to King & Spalding for destruction. The BeProud Web site posted a message next to the BPS doll’s picture saying UPS “issued a cease & desist to us, demanding that we destroy all BPS dolls or be sued.” BeProud has refused the demand and promises to continue selling the dolls. Morgan, co-owner of BeProud.com, says the BPS and other Billy dolls are obvious parodies of UPS’ familiar deliverymen. “The whole line basically is a novelty … it’s something for fun.” BeProud also sells Billy dolls dressed as policemen and firemen. Morgan argues that the UPS doll is sold with these other American icons. “Obviously UPS has achieved the status of American icon so therefore they’re being honored,” Morgan says. Morgan says a Totem distributor reported that the company had promised to stop producing the Billy dolls in response to King & Spalding’s Oct. 9 letter. Morgan says he hasn’t spoken to anyone at Totem. UPS isn’t flattered by Morgan’s statement about icon status. “It clearly to us is an instance of trademark infringement to sell a doll. We wouldn’t care if the doll was a GI Joe or a Ken … the point is, and the question is, the way they’re dressing it and selling it,” says Norman Black, a spokesman for UPS. “This is not a parody. This is very clearly a trademark infringement from our standpoint.” Last week, Curtin sent another cease-and-desist letter to BeProud in response to the message. Black says the company hasn’t responded to the second letter. The second letter, which Morgan calls “much nicer,” reiterates UPS’ request that the doll’s brown uniforms be destroyed. Morgan, who says he can’t afford to hire a lawyer, wrote in a faxed letter to the Daily Report that “they [UPS] have a complaint, we considered it — disagree and there is really not much more to it than that.” Curtin says he can’t comment on the matter. According to the BeProud Web site, UPS is the preferred shipper of its products.

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