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The Return of Esso Gasoline?

Court lifts injunction against brand use by Exxon Mobil Corp.

IRVING, Texas -- The Esso gasoline brand could return to several markets across the United States following a ruling by a U.S. district judge that has lifted a 78-year-old moratorium.

Esso gas station

Eastern District Court of Missouri Judge Carol E. Jackson agreed Feb. 8 to modify an injunction first established in 1938 that prohibited Exxon Mobil Corp. from using the trademark in 15 states: Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Exxon evolved from Standard Oil of New Jersey. In the 1930s, the Esso fuel brand, which once dotted the U.S. landscape, and related products were identified as trademarks associated with Standard Oil Co. of Indiana, a separate company and thus off limits to the New Jersey entity. In an action filed in court in mid-December to regain access to the fuel brand, Exxon Mobil Corp. said over the years there has been "a significant change in the public's perception of the marks Standard Oil ... and the mark Esso."

"Use of the mark Esso in the subject states is no longer likely to cause confusion with Standard Oil Co., as the public no longer associated the mark Esso with Standard Oil," Irving, Texas-based Exxon said in court documents obtained by CSP Daily News. Exxon uses the Esso mark extensively outside the Unites States.

Standard Oil Co. changed its name to Amoco Corp. in 1985 and was acquired by BP in 1998, creating BP Amoco. BP dropped the Amoco part of its name in 2000, according to the documents.

Today, "approximately 86% of the consumers asked who owned or sponsored the gas station featuring the mark Esso ... believed the company that owned the station was a company named Esso," documents state based on a survey conducted by a college professor. "The remaining individuals either names Exxon or ExxonMobil as the owner."

Also, BP officials said the company "takes no exception" to Exxon Mobil Corp.'s request to regain access to the trademark.

It is not stated in the documents when, if or where ExxonMobil might revive the Esso brand in the United States.

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