Case Closed on Mirina vs. Marina, as Accelerator Startup Changes Name

6/22/11Follow @xconomy

There won’t be any more Mirina vs. Marina stories to kick around here anymore.

Seattle-based Mirina, the privately-held developer of microRNA therapies, has dropped its trademark infringement lawsuit against Bothell, WA-based Marina Biotech (NASDAQ: MRNA). Mirina, a startup at Accelerator, has changed its name to Groove Biopharma, according to Accelerator CEO Carl Weissman.

“Every single time we are out talking to potential partners or potential investors, who have any knowledge of Seattle or the microRNA space, they get confused about which company they are talking to,” Weissman says. “We were sick of the confusion, so we changed our name.”

Regular readers may recall that Mirina filed a trademark infringement lawsuit last August, shortly after the public company mentioned above changed its name from MDRNA to Marina Biotech. Both companies pronounce their names Muh-REE-nuh, just like a place where you dock boats. And they work in similar fields of technology, with drugs designed to fight disease by specifically interacting with RNA or microRNA in cells.

The company formerly known as Mirina staked its claim to the name when it was founded in August 2008. The little Mirina, irked when the other company changed its name to Marina, asked Marina to change its name last summer. Those talks went nowhere, and so the suit was brought.

The lawsuit ended up costing Accelerator about $50,000 in legal fees, Weissman says. Accelerator decided to pull the plug on the case after it was unable to get a judge to issue a preliminary injunction to force Marina Biotech to change its name while awaiting trial, Weissman says. If the case had gone to trial, scheduled for December, it would have cost an estimated $750,000 to $1 million, plus unknown amounts of time and attention on depositions and legal discovery, he says.

Carl Weissman

“It could have gotten very time consuming, and would have cost a ton of money which we’ll put toward pushing Groove forward,” Weissman says.

Marina Biotech’s chief financial officer, Pete Garcia, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment this morning.

So given all the wrangling, how did Accelerator come up with the new name, Groove Biopharma? The company’s base technology is built on what are called minor groove binders that affect cellular processes. Weissman added that there’s also some symbolism here, in that “the company is very agile and innovative, and we think Groove brings that to mind.”

And, just to be sure, I had to ask one more thing. The new name is available, right?

“That was part of our decision, you better believe it,” Weissman says. “We filed a trademark.”

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