CineStill has denied it is suing rival film brands amid a trademark row which has erupted in the last week.
The US-based film brand, which produces rolls of stills film from Kodak-produced cinema film, sent a statement to Kosmo Foto after it was accused on social media channels of suing rival film brands in an attempt to protect its trademarks.
The issue appears to stem from the use of the designation “800T” by Reflx Lab, a Chinese company which also offers Kodak cinema films converted for use in stills cameras.
Reflx Lab had offered an 800-ISO tungsten-balanced film – like Cinestill’s 800T, converted from Kodak Vision3 500T film – which was initially called “Reflx Lab 800T”. CineStill contacted Reflx Lab to ask for a name change because of its similarity to its own product, and the film is now sold as “Reflx Lab 800“.
The row over trademarks appears to have started late last week. A small-scale private film re-seller said that earlier this year Cinestill had contacted them saying that their sale of the 800T-branded Reflx Lab films contravened its trademarks. The seller said they were unable to list the films on their eBay shop even after the packaging was changed because eBay said the film was still in breach of trademark guidelines
The seller’s posts were followed by a blog post from Boston-based film shop and brand CatLabs on Monday (9 October) which said that the company had been sued by CineStill for selling Reflx Lab 800-ISO films.
The row has led to a number of inflammatory posts on various Reddit groups and other social channels, with some commenters calling for a boycott of CineStill film.
In a statement sent to Kosmo Foto, CineStill denied it was suing any rival brands or sellers of their products.
The statement said: “First and foremost, there is no lawsuit involving CineStill. We have not sued anyone. Any statements suggesting otherwise are simply false and misleading.
“Second, we are not trying to ‘prevent competition’. For the last year, we’ve seen our trademarks wrongly used on products imported from China for both packaging and marketing purposes, either by using our registered trademarks for the product names or for statements like ‘same as CineStill’ and ‘better than 800T’ to help sell these products.
“Our legal counsel informed us that we must do the minimum required to protect our trademarks or they will eventually lose their distinctiveness as source identifiers. CineStill’s team (not lawyers) first sent courtesy notices via email, not cease and desist letters, to apparent trademark infringers to address concerns about the confusing similarity of certain products and their violation of trademarks that CineStill legally owns. Only a couple of individuals responded poorly to our initial courtesy notices by referring us to their legal representation, who demanded that our lawyers contact their lawyers directly to send a formal Cease and Desist.”
“Again, CineStill did not sue anyone. We are happy that the vast majority of these businesses were responsive and worked with our team to improve their listings. Additionally, we began working directly with the makers of some of these products privately to suggest alternate unique identifiers and descriptors to avoid confusion for consumers and encourage fair competition.
“The purpose of these courtesy notices was to request that product sources be clearly distinguished and to suggest alternative identifiers and descriptors to avoid confusion for consumers and to inform the recipient of CineStill’s active trademarks. The intention was not to attack, intimidate, or initiate legal action against anyone — we have no interest in getting into lawsuits. This was driven by a desire to protect our brand, promote fair competition, and provide clarity in the market.”
CineStill has trademarked use of “800T” since 2022, after an initial trademark request was rejected. Some commenters on Reddit have argued that this is not enforceable because this is not a brand name but a physical designation of the film’s properties. CineStill has posted a lengthy post on its own website explaining its trademarking of the term.
In relation to this, CineStill said: “In regards to our trademark of 800T: we have never claimed ownership of generic terms like “800” or “ISO 800-speed” or “3200Kelvin colour-balance” or “tungsten-balanced”. Instead, we are protecting the unique combination of elements (800 + T together) that CineStill has consistently used since at least July 16, 2013, which up until that point had not been commonly used to describe products in the still photography market. It is not about who invented it, but rather who has consistently and exclusively marketed certain products over the last decade.”