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News Briefs

Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Squabble Over Tiger Trademark


The Supreme Court refused Monday to referee a cat fight between the oil company that puts a “tiger in your tank” and the cereal maker whose Frosted Flakes are described as “grrreat!” by Tony the Tiger.

Instead, the high court sent the trademark dispute to a trial judge to decide whether consumers are sometimes confused about the two famous tigers.

Four years ago, cereal maker Kellogg Co. sued Exxon when the oil giant started selling food products in its Tigermart convenience stores. The stores featured Exxon’s friendly cartoon tiger and the cereal maker said that consumers might think its products are sponsored by Kellogg.

“It’s one thing when their tiger is selling gasoline. But when their tiger is selling food and beverages, that’s something else,” said Daniel S. Mason, a San Francisco attorney who represents Kellogg. He cited a Kellogg survey that found 1 in 4 consumers thought the cartoon tiger on the Exxon beverage cup meant the product was Kellogg’s.

“We think that’s farfetched,” responded Louis T. Pirkey, an Exxon attorney from Austin, Texas. “We think consumers know the difference between Tony the Tiger and the Exxon tiger.”

The trademark dispute illustrates how companies are increasingly going to court to protect their brands and images.

College Costs Continue to Rise


After slowing for most of the 1990s, college tuition increases bumped upwards this year, the College Board announced Monday in its annual survey of college costs.

The main Washington lobby for higher education said big increases in energy and health costs were responsible for the shift in tuition trends. Other college groups blamed financial pressures related to academic quality, student comfort and technology.

Tuition at four-year public colleges rose an average of 4.4 percent for the 2000 school year, the first time since 1991 that the increase was higher than it had been the year before. Last year, public college tuitions increased 3.4 percent, on average.

The latest tuition increases at private colleges averaged 5.2 percent, up from 4.6 percent a year ago. Tuition increases at private institutions had also been headed down in the 1990s, although the pattern was less consistent. It was the third time since 1988 that private college tuitions had increased faster than they had in the previous year.

Stanley Ikenberry, president of the American Council on Education, which represents higher education in Washington, said colleges experienced a 10 percent increase in health insurance costs in the last year “along with double digit increases in energy prices.”