OKLAHOMA CITY – A Tulsa businessman who uses the words "BARKSTRONG" and "PURRSTRONG" on pet collars has sued the Lance Armstrong Foundation in a trademark dispute.
Chris Ohman, the founder of Animal Charity Collar Group Inc., filed his suit on April 30 in federal court in Tulsa. Ohman claimed the Armstrong Foundation — which has marketed popular yellow bracelets with the "LIVESTRONG" motto on them — is infringing on Ohman's intellectual property rights because it also sells pet collars with the "LIVESTRONG" motto.
Lance Armstrong, the seven-time Tour de France winner and cancer survivor, created the foundation and the bracelets to benefit cancer research.
The Armstrong Foundation filed a similar suit in federal court in Austin, Texas, last year, seeking unspecified damages. The foundation wanted Ohman to cease selling the animal collars, the sale of which benefits animal welfare groups in the Tulsa area. Ohman earlier had filed a counterclaim to that suit.
Ohman was awarded a patent for his pet collar in December, leading him to file his lawsuit.
"Once I was awarded a patent, I felt like I was in a much stronger position," Ohman said. "I gave them a variety of options. They elected to stonewall me, basically."
Armstrong Foundation spokeswoman Katherine McLane said that organization does not comment on pending litigation.
Ohman said his attempts to resolve the dispute have met with unreasonable demands from the Armstrong Foundation.
A Feb. 28 letter sent by the foundation's attorney, Eugene Pak, to Ohman demanded that Ohman give his intellectual property in BARKSTRONG to the foundation, drop his counterclaim and destroy his remaining inventory of the pet collars. The letter noted that Ohman likely could not afford legal fees associated with the case.
Ohman called those demands "almost like extortion." He said that if the foundation ignores his patent rights, "then I'm forced to protect myself."