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LAWSUIT

Kraftwerk singer sues over same-name charger

Update: Charger company eZelleron's CEO told The Local that he invites Kraftwerk lead Ralf Hütter to have a conversation with them, after the singer filed a trademark infringement suit against their phone-charger named 'kraftwerk'.

Kraftwerk singer sues over same-name charger
A Kraftwerk concert in Berlin in January. Photo: DPA

Hütter is suing Dresden-based eZelleron for trademark infringement after they named their new fuel cell-powered phone charger 'kraftwerk' – German for power station.

The complaint was filed on Monday in Delaware – where the company is incorporated – and states that "consumers are likely to assume that there is a connection, association, or relationship between the famous electronic Music band and a charger for portable musical- playing devices." 

But CEO Sascha Kühn said in a statement to The Local that the company did not know of the lawsuit until it was reported on by American media.

eZelleron's product is advertised as a wireless, energy-efficient phone charger that uses fuel cell technology to transform gas into electricity, enabling users to generate their own energy.

Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign started in December garnered more than $1.5 million (more than €1.4 million) from 11,660 interested backers. 

"We do not understand Mr. Hütter's argument that our power station, which like all other power stations produces power, cannot be called a power station," Kühn said.

He added that "we see no risk of confusion with the band name," and invited Hütter and the band to the company to see how the product works.

"We do not care for a worldwide legal battle and we hope that our invitation for a conversation can eliminate the problem."

Kühn also said that the company had consulted with both American and German law firms, who assured them that the name could be used.

Hütter owns exclusive trademark rights to a wide range of products related to the band, ranging from "video data and optical data in the field of music entertainment" to "toilet paper, paper diapers, cardboard containers, paper bags and wrapping paper", according to the complaint.

He co-founded Kraftwerk in 1970 in Düsseldorf, going on to earn international acclaim, including a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammys last year.

Hütter is seeking, among other things, compensation for damages as well as "any and all the domain name registrations owned or controlled by [eZelleron] containing the term KRAFTWERK be transferred" to him.

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MUSIC

Dancing like there’s no Covid: first German nightclub reopens in Leipzig

For techno enthusiast Philipp Koegler, it almost felt like a normal Saturday night again as he joined 200 fellow revellers at "Distillery", the first German nightclub to reopen since the start of the pandemic.

Dancing like there's no Covid: first German nightclub reopens in Leipzig
A file photo of a disco ball in a night club. Photo: dpa-Zentralbild | Britta Pedersen

“Tonight, there are no rules,” the almost 30-year-old told AFP, whipping off his mask on his way to the dance floor.

Despite more than a year of closures forced by the coronavirus, it didn’t take long for the thumping beats, low lights and buzzing crowds to reawaken the much-missed club atmosphere.

“It feels like I’ve come back after being away on vacation for a week,” Koegler beamed.

But of course there are some rules to restarting the party, even in Germany where coronavirus infections have declined steadily in recent weeks as the pace of vaccinations has picked up.

The Distillery club in the eastern city of Leipzig, which bills itself as the oldest techno venue in Germany’s former Communist east, is taking part in a pilot project supported by scientists from the Max Planck institute and the local university hospital.

Just 200 club-goers are allowed in instead of the usual 600 and each person must take two different kinds of coronavirus tests earlier in the day, with entry granted only if they test negative both times.

Once inside, the masks can come off and revellers don’t have to socially distance.

Each participant also agrees to being re-tested a week later, to uncover potential infections despite the precautions taken.

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Organisers hope the project can serve as a blueprint for further club re-openings to help the hard-hit sector back on its feet after a devastating year.

Although several venues in Germany experimented with open-air parties, club-goer Konny said it “just isn’t the same”.

“In the club, you’re in a different world,” she said.

Growing influence

Distillery manager Steffen Kache expressed pride at being the first club in the country to reopen indoors.

“Everyone is jealous,” he told AFP.

Kache said that if there has been an upside to the pandemic closures, it was that politicians had woken up to the social and economic importance of Germany’s vibrant club culture.

Lawmakers last month agreed to reclassify nightclubs as cultural institutions rather than entertainment venues, putting them on a par with
theatres and museums to provide more protection and tax benefits.

Germany’s nightlife capital Berlin alone – home to iconic clubs Berghain, KitKat and Tresor – usually attracts tens of thousands of foreign visitors each year who generate over a billion euros in revenues.   

Many observers fear that when the pandemic dust has settled, not all of Germany’s clubs will have survived the lengthy shutdowns.

The collaboration with local authorities that made Distillery’s pilot project possible was “unthinkable before the crisis”, Kache said, and evidence of a “reconciliation” between underground club culture and the political establishment.

He said he hoped the next step would be “the nationwide reopening of cultural spots and clubs, without Covid restrictions”.

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