Famed Hedge Fund Manager Robertson In Tiger Trademark Dispute

Oct 26 2007 | 2:40pm ET

Famed hedge fund manager Julian Robertson and the organizers of an exclusive "wealth group" for multimillionaires are heading into court-ordered mediation in a bid to settle a dispute over who gets to mark their territory with the Tiger name. 
 
Robertson, whose value-oriented Tiger Management once managed over $22 billion prior to a series of missteps and investor defections several years ago, is suing Michael Sonnenfeldt, alleging that Sonnenfeldt's Tiger 21 investment seminars infringe on Robertson's long-standing Tiger trademarks. Sonnenfeldt has since countersued, contending Robertson abandoned the name when he shut down the New York-based Tiger Fund and five other similarly named funds in early 2000, which is just about the same time Sonnenfeldt and equity partner Richard Lavin began organizing day-long roundtables on investment strategies for individuals with at least $10 million in assets.
 
Tiger 21 is an acronym for The Investment Group for Enhanced Results in the 21st Century. It now boasts 145 members with a combined net worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 billion—a rarified enclave where annual dues of $25,000 is usually the least of its members’ problems. Instead, Tiger 21 members sit down several times a year to hear investment pitches and swap advice and life stories on how to best protect their ample assets.
 
Under U.S. District Court Judge Robert Paterson's recent order calling for mediation, the two sides are barred from publicly discussing the case or any settlement terms should they reach an agreement. But in court documents filed in federal court in Manhattan, Robertson said his claim to the Tiger name dates back to May 1980, adding that since closing his funds, he has licensed its use to other fund managers.

The seven-count complaint also accuses Sonnenfeldt and Lavin of cyber-piracy, contending that the "www.tiger21.com" domain name unfairly trades on Robertson's reputation for financial advice.
 
The defendants counter that it is widely believed that Tiger Management has been dormant for several years, noting that in his March 30, 2000 letter to investors explaining his decision to return all of the funds' capital to investors, Robertson said he was "effectively bringing down the curtain on the Tiger funds." They also argue that New York-based Tiger 21 has followed all of the necessary steps to register its name with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and that the period to lodge any opposition to that bid had expired before Robertson filed suit.


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