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Skunkworks wins naming right fight

Perth flat-screen mounting manufacturer Skunkworks has claimed victory in a struggle with US military and aviation giant Lockheed Martin over efforts to trademark the company's name in Australia.

Federal government body IP Australia last week decided in favour of Skunkworks' owner, The Novita Group Pty Ltd of Salter Point, which had sought to trademark the name, a process started three years ago.

Lockheed Martin coined the term 'Skunk Works' during the Second World War, with the term becoming the official alias for its Advanced Development Programs. It has trademarked the name in the US.

It registered its opposition to the Australian application in February 2006.

The win by Skunkworks is the latest for a Perth company over US giants. In 2006, WA company Uggs-N-Rugs won a two-year legal battle over the right to use the name 'ugh-boot' with the North American giant Deckers Outdoor Corporation, which owns the trademark in the US. Australian producers are now free to use ugh or ugg to describe sheepskin boots.

In 2002, Malaga-based Galvin Engineering overcame a long legal challenge to the use of its initials in a logo by another US giant - General Electrics.

Skunkworks managing director Lou Schillaci said the company, which directly employs only nine people, had fought the trademark battle itself.

"We decided to do it ourselves, so it was a matter of time rather than cost," he said.

However, Mr Schillaci said the effort involved was very distracting and, had it been critical to the survival of his company, he would have employed his own legal advisers.

He said Lockheed Martin's legal representatives had been tenacious with regard to the matter until it came to a point where a hearing would have been required. Then, according to Mr Schillaci, the defence giant and maker of the Stealth Bomber had "just disappeared off the radar".

Mr Schillaci said the win underscored his view that the term 'skunk works' was a colloquialism for a think tank, particularly created to conjure up ideas outside the routine.

He said it would make it simpler for Skunkworks to brand itself in the US, where it has two employees.

The company makes about 80 products, with the bulk of them produced in Asia, though it has started manufacturing in Welshpool.

The growth area for Skunkworks is motorised products which allow remote control of flat screen views via its mounting products.

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