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Mirina Sues Marina Biotech over Name Similarity

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By Doug Macron

Seattle-based microRNA drugs developer Mirina has sued Marina Biotech, formerly MDRNA, for trademark infringement, alleging that the company's name is too similar to its own, according to a court document obtained by Gene Silencing News.

Marina's name, which was adopted in July, "is likely to cause confusion, mistake, or deception as to the origin, sponsorship, or approach of the services" provided by Mirina, the company charges in its suit.

Despite being told that its "name change would create a conflict with Mirina," Marina adopted the new moniker "in competition with Mirina to offer and promote research and drug-development services, including the development of RNA-based therapeutics," Mirina said.

"Mirina has and will continue to be damaged by such false description, false representation, and false designation of origin in a manner and amount that cannot fully be measured or compensated in economic terms," it said in the suit.

As such, Mirina is asking the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington at Seattle to bar Marina from using its new name and pay yet-to-be-determined damages and court fees.

For its part, Bothell, Wash.-based Marina maintains that its name change is solely the result of its recent acquisition of Cambridge, Mass.-based Cequent Pharmaceuticals (GSN 4/1/2010 and 7/22/2010).

"We renamed our company following MDRNA’s acquisition of Cequent … to connect the marine nature of our two locations — Puget Sound and Boston Harbor — while preserving our Nasdaq ticker, MRNA, which we have used since June 11, 2008," Marina President and CEO Michael French told Gene Silencing News in an e-mail.

“We remain focused on building value around our RNAi drug discovery platforms and the lawsuit will not distract us from our goal of realizing the potential of RNAi-based therapeutics," he added.

Adrift

Mirina was founded in 2008 by biotech-investment and -development firm Accelerator to develop miRNA inhibitors using the so-called minor groove binder technology licensed from Nanogen (GSN 8/21/2008). Earlier this year, the company's operations began in earnest after it closed a Series A-1 round of financing (GSN 4/29/2010).

In its lawsuit, Mirina noted that it uses its trade name "when seeking and engaging business and investment partners, customers, and employees," making it a "valuable" asset and an indicator of the "source of Mirina's services."

Meantime, Marina's name, which the company only adopted last month, is "confusingly similar" to Mirina's, as evidenced by Mirina's having received correspondence misidentifying the company with Marina, the suit adds.

"Mirina has been and will continue to be irreparably injured by reason of [Marina's] unfair methods of competition and unfair trade practices," and such harm will continue unless it is enjoined from using its new name, it states.

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