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Firm Loses First Round of Dispute Over ‘Pog’ Name : Courts: Company is barred from using name pending trial. Copyright battle is being closely watched by manufacturers, retailers in mushrooming market for milk caps in children’s game.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Huntington Beach company was barred Thursday from using the word pog to market milk caps used in the wildly popular children’s game--at least until a legal battle over the name goes to trial this fall.

The court ruling was hailed as a victory by the Costa Mesa-based World POG Federation, which was sued by rival Universal Pogs Assn. Inc. But the case is far from over in the dispute involving the game played with decorated discs.

As part of the ruling, Orange County Superior Court Commissioner Jane D. Myers ordered the World POG Federation to post a $350,000 bond by 4 p.m. today to compensate Universal Pogs for any business losses in the coming weeks if the company’s opponent prevails during the November trial.

But World POG Federation President Alan Rypinski said Thursday he is confident that his company, which claims exclusive rights to the name, will win the trial.

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“Coke, Kleenex, Q-Tip and Scrabble all faced similar challenges, and each of them successfully defended their trademark rights,” Rypinski said in a release. “We will too. I guess it comes with the turf.”

Robert B. Rosenstein, an attorney representing Universal Pogs, said that he was disappointed with the ruling and that the company will change its name for now.

But he said he remains confident the company will prove the name pog is so commonly used that it should be fair game for anyone to use commercially.

“What we were faced with is overcoming the presumption that ( pog ) is not generic,” he said.

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The legal dispute between the Orange County companies began last month and is being watched closely by other manufacturers and retailers in a fast-growing industry that some have predicted could generate $1 billion this year alone.

In its lawsuit, the Universal Pogs Assn. Inc. is disputing the World POG Federation’s claims of exclusive rights to the name. The federation has countersued. The owner of Universal Pogs has vowed to take the battle to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.

The game itself is simple and played much like marbles, but with silver-dollar-sized plastic and cardboard milk caps, similar to the flat circles once used to seal glass milk bottles.

Players hurl a heavier plastic disc known as a “slammer” or “kini” onto a stack of the cardboard caps. The trick is to flip the cardboard caps over by hitting them. Rules vary, with children playing for points or to keep the caps they successfully flip. Children also collect the discs, which are decorated with various logos, sayings, personalities and characters.

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The game has its roots in the Great Depression, when a similar game of milk caps became popular among children. More recently, the game was revived in Hawaii when a teacher at an Oahu elementary school rounded up milk covers from a dairy and introduced the game to her students. A favorite cover of the children was from a dairy drink called POG, which stands for passion fruit, orange and guava.

Rypinski said he competed against others and in September, 1993, obtained all rights to the POG brand name from the Haleakala Dairy for the game, as well as the fruit drink.


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