San Diego - Couristan Inc., a carpeting and rug manufacturer based in New Jersey, was sued in Nebraska federal court last week by Mutual of Omaha Insurance Company. The lawsuit involves a recently released line of faux animal skin carpets under the "Wild Kingdom" moniker which Mutual of Omaha believes is likely to cause confusion with its TV series of the same name.
Mutual of Omaha is the owner of U.S. Trademark Registrations for WILD KINGDOM (stylized) for "Entertainment services-namely, a television program dealing with conservation of wildlife" and WILD KINGDOM for "DVDs featuring television show episodes." The program and the DVDs feature the well-known television program which originally aired between January 6, 1963 and 1986, but was picked up again more recently by Animal Planet in 2002. The popular show brought viewers into the natural habitats of wild animals, worked to protect animal rights, and advocated wildlife conservation.
Mutual of Omaha also owns U.S. trademark registrations for WILD KINGDOM for use in relation to t-shirts, stuffed animals, posters and other promotional items.
Mutual of Omaha believes Couristan is infringing on its trademarks and good name and does not want consumers to believe it is associated with Couristan's line of rugs. Consistent with its advocacy to promote wildlife conservation, Mutual of Omaha does not want to "... contribute to the trend of using actual or faux animal skins for purposes of home décor." It has requested that all carpets and rugs bearing the name "Wild Kingdom" be immediately destroyed.
When Mutual of Omaha learned of the line of rugs it sent a cease and desist letter to Couristan but the parties apparently were not able to come to a resolution. Mutual of Omaha believes its reputation will be harmed should Couristan continue to sell and distribute the "Wild Kingdom" line.
In the complaint, Mutual of Omaha accuses Couristan of unfair competition, trademark infringement, dilution of its trademark, and violation of the Nebraska Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Mutual of Omaha also requests damages due to the alleged infringement including damages for dilution, and recovery of any profits that Couristan has obtained from sales in the U.S. and abroad.