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Conference Producer Opal Financial Group Inc. has sued Opalesque Ltd.

Monday, January 18, 2010
By Matthias Knab, Opalesque: Conference Producer Opal Financial Group Inc. has sued Opalesque Ltd. and Matthias Knab personally in Federal Court Connecticut for trademark infringement, asserting that members of the hedge fund industry will be confused by the trademarks Opal Financial Group Inc. and Opalesque. Opalesque contends the claims are without any merit, especially in light of the fact that Opal Financial Group Inc. sought to promote its events through the Opalesque brand as early as 2003 through media partnerships and other solicitations - even after the lawsuit was filed.

The Settlement Episode

In 2009, the Federal Court in Hartford, Connecticut had already ordered me as the Opalesque founder, and plaintiff Abe Wellington for Opal Financial Group to come together for a settlement conference. So I had to fly into the U.S. just for that settlement conference, where Opalesque was proposing a settlement, which Opal Financial Group did not react to. Opal Financial Group did not even come up with a proposal on their own.

The Actual Trademark

It has to be noted that Opal Financial Group's trademark (registered as word mark in 2008) is “Opal Financial Group”, not Opal or any other variation which includes Opal. I had bought Opalesque Ltd. in 2001 off the shelf - at a time I was not aware of Opal Financial Group. Around the year 2000 I started to produce a newsletter on electronic trading, and in 2003 I started our first issue of Alternative Market Briefing, focusing on hedge funds. Ironically, Opal Financial Group solicited Opalesque to be a media sponsor for a conference they produced in Italy during summer 2003, and that was the first hedge fund conference I ever attended. In a recent email to Opalesque users, I wrote that I am still in touch with some of the people and hedge fund managers I met there, and quite a few answered me that the "remember me well" from the two Opal Financial Group events that I attended in my role as a media partner for those events, and supported the view that they never confused the two brands.

The Altesque Episode

Following an introduction via a NYU professor, in 2008 Opalesque set up a small conference unit as a JV for educational events in New York with Janice Johnson, JD, CPA. Janice Johnson was a Partner in several international CPA firms and previously chaired the Investment Partnerships Conference of the New York State Society of CPAs for 8 years (see the press release here). The idea was to focus on professional education for lawyers and CPAs, who would be getting CPE credits. So, Opalesque wasn't even competing with the type fo conferences set up by Opal Financial Group.

When Opal Financial brought up this lawsuit, Opalesque CHANGED the name of the conference business to ALTESQUE, in order to avoid trouble and costs.  As ALTESQUE was not profitable, Opalesque even STOPPED producing events shortly thereafter.  So 1. Opalesque changed the name of the conference unit and 2. stopped doing events all together in fall 2009.  It is not clear for what reasons Opal Financial Group is continuing the law suit.

Interestingly, Opal Financial Group has used the Opalesque brand since 2003 to promote their events, and even while the suit was filed, Opal Financial still added their events into the Opalesque online event calendar and tried to solicit Opalesque as a sponsor for their events.

Your View?

Numerous industry experts based outside the U.S. East Coast have offered Opalesque to swear an affidavit or give video testimony. Some would even come to Connecticut to testify that there is no confusion between the brands.

Opalesque would be interested in hearing from anybody familiar with the brands relating to both the conference events produced by Opal Financial Group Inc. and Opalesque’s participation at events, especially those who might be willing to give us an afternoon and testify at trial that there is no confusion between the two.

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