Intellectual Property

If Salvador Dali Painted Trademark Cases, His Muse Might Be Mattresses and Space Constellations

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. Penney.

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:

The PERFECT 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 solstice mission.

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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