Ernst & Young is engaged in lawsuits with Entrepreneur Media Inc. over the use of the term "entrepreneur of the year" by Entrepreneur Magazine.

The accounting firm said it has been conducting an Entrepreneur of the Year contest for over two decades, handing out awards to such luminaries as Michael Dell of Dell Computer, Howard Schultz of Starbucks, Steve Case of America Online, Jeff Bezos of, John Mackey of Whole Foods Market and Wayne Huizenga of Blockbuster Entertainment.

It sent a cease-and-desist letter to Entrepreneur Media when it launched its own contests in 2008 for Entrepreneur Magazine's Entrepreneur of the Year and Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year. The publisher in turn filed for declaratory judgment in June, asking the court to declare that E&Y's trademark is invalid and unenforceable.

"Like countless other organizations across the country, EMI is entitled to use the generic phrase 'entrepreneur of the year' to describe its entrepreneur of the year contests and award programs," said the lawsuit.

E&Y responded with a lawsuit of its own, saying that it long ago registered the trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Organization and has defended it several times since, including in 1994 when Entrepreneur Media launched a similar contest and backed down when E&Y objected in writing. E&Y is seeking an injunction, an accounting of Entrepreneur Media's profits from the contest, damages, attorneys' relief and other fees.

"For the past 22 years, Ernst & Young has conducted an awards program under the federally registered Entrepreneur of the Year trademark," said a statement e-mailed by Ernst & Young spokesman Charlie Perkins. "In 1994, EMI launched and then dropped an earlier program under the same name, to which Ernst & Young had objected. EMI's current use of the trademark is a clear infringement of our exclusive right to use the registered trademark, and we are taking appropriate legal steps necessary to protect our rights."

Entrepreneur Media did not respond to a request for comment.

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