Luxo AS (Luxo), the Norwegian lighting company which makes the desktop lamp that inspired the Pixar logo, has filed a complaint suing Pixar and the Walt Disney Company for trade mark infringement.

According to the complaint, Luxo has designed and manufactured desk lamps, which have been offered for sale in the USA since 1939. Luxo's range includes a variety of task lamps with spring balanced arms, most notably its design award winning LUXO L-1 and LS desklamps, of which over 25 million have been sold worldwide. One of the lamps is also stated to be in the permanent collection of The Museum of Modern Art.

What Luxo refers to as the "trade dress" of its desk lamp has, for many, also become synonymous with the Californian-based animator's much-loved logo, which appears at the beginning of all of Pixar's films. John Lasseter, founder of Pixar, has been reported as saying that his Luxo lamp was the inspiration for the company's signature character. In addition, two Luxo inspired lamps, a father and son playing with a ball, appeared in Pixar's first film in 1986, which was a 2 minute silent animation entitled "Luxo Jr".

Despite the seemingly amicable relationship between the two companies over the years, Luxo lodged its complaint on 3rd September with a district court in New York, citing concerns about the sale by Walt Disney owned Pixar of functioning special edition lamps bearing the name "Luxo Jr" and also the operation of a 6-foot animatronic version of the Luco Jr lamp at the Walk Disney Theme Park.

Luxo claims that this is the first time that its trade marks (US trade marks 0778106 and 1314484 for the work and typed drawing of the word "Luxo") have been infringed by Pixar as (i) the Pixar logo made no express reference to the name "Luxo" and (ii) prior to the launch of the special edition lamps in August 2009, no actual lamps had been created using the LUXO trade mark.

Luxo's concerns are that the use of the "Luxo" name will cause consumers to believe that the Disney lamps are the product of (or are otherwise associated with) Luxo. The company claims that the Disney lamps are of an inferior quality to its own products and so their sale is, therefore, likely to cause damage to Luxo's reputation and extensive goodwill. The complaint also states that the "near complete expropriation" of the LUXO trade mark by Pixar will cause consumers to believe that Luxo is either infringing Pixar's trade mark or is a licensee of Pixar.

Luxo is seeking a court order prohibiting Pixar from producing and selling any lamp, or indeed any other products, bearing the Luxo trade mark and also an award of damages taking into account Pixar's profits from the sale of the infringing lamps.

It will be interesting to see whether the US court considers that Luxo's permitting, or at least tolerance of, Pixar's 20-year use of the animated Luxo-inspired lamp in its logo and under the name "Luxo Jr" in connection with its animation could be considered acquiescence to use of the trade mark and a defence to the trade mark infringement suit.