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It might not be melting clocks or dreamy landscapes,
but sometimes, trademark law takes on the quality of a surreal painting (e.g.
the Hangover II/Mike Tyson tattoo case). Take for instance the
recent intersection of Serta, Oleg Cassini and J.C. Penney. On its face, the
parties appear benign, but throw in a famous Italian/French astronomer, a NASA
spacecraft and a lunar crater, and the clocks start to melt a bit.
On November 11th, Serta, manufacturer of
the Perfect Day Cassini mattress, filed a complaint against Oleg Cassini, Inc., asking for a
declaratory judgment of trademark non-infringement. Cassini claimed that Serta's
sale of the Perfect Day Cassini mattress infringed Cassini's trademark rights
in the name "Cassini."
Cassini, one of the first designers to license and
associate his name with various home good products, designed a mattress line
sold by Sealy. Cassini also designed a very successful bedding line for J.C. Penney, which, oddly enough, was the exclusive
seller of the Perfect Day Cassini mattress. Less than a month after Serta's
filing, Cassini filed a trademark infringement action against Serta and J.C.
Serta has denied Cassini's allegations and believes it
has not infringed any valid trademarks. Here's where things get "spacey" so to
speak. According to Serta:
DAY Cassini model name was one of several model names Serta used for the
PERFECT DAY mattresses that were based on various outer space-related names including,
among other things, the Eclipse, the Gemini, the Moonscape, the Onyx Moon, the Orion,
the Pisces, the Sirius, the Stellar, the Taurus, the Cassini, and the Nebula.
The name of
the PERFECT DAY Cassini mattress model name was inspired by numerous
space-related entities including Giovanni Domenico Cassini, a famous Italian/French
astronomer who lived from 1625-1712, and the famous NASA Cassini spacecraft and
In addition to
the famous astronomer and the NASA spacecraft, the term "Cassini" is used and
has been used by others in association with a variety of other goods and services
including various food products, a lunar crater, and a web server.
If Serta prevails, it might be a surreal lesson on branding
-- to look to the sky or towards old stargazers when you want to protect your
product from trademark allegations. It might also portend a name change for all
fashion designers born with astronomy-related surnames. Ralph Lauren would be
wise to double check the moons of Jupiter, just to be safe.
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