Mutual of Omaha sues carpet company over Wild Kingdom trademark use

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Posted: Wednesday, May 1, 2013 12:00 am

Mutual of Omaha has sued carpet company Couristan for what it calls improper use of the Wild Kingdom trademark to promote safari-themed floor furnishings.

Mutual of Omaha, the lawsuit says, has spent about $100 million promoting the Wild Kingdom trademark since 1963 and doesn't appreciate someone else profiting from its intellectual property.

The Omaha-based insurer and bank operator filed the suit late last month in U.S. District Court in Nebraska. The suit says New Jersey-based Couristan engaged in infringement and deceptive trade practices by misappropriating the Wild Kingdom trademark for its floor covering collection, which features safari and wildlife motifs.

That's unfair, the insurer said, because the trademark was designed to promote Mutual of Omaha's nature conservation efforts. The “Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom” television series is the best-known example.

The company, the suit says, became aware of the Wild Kingdom safari line of floor furnishings in January and demanded that carpet and rug manufactuer and importer Couristan stop the use in February. “Couristan has refused,” the suit says.

Mutual of Omaha spokesman Jim Nolan declined to comment on pending litigation.

Couristan said Tuesday the flap is no big deal and is all but over. “It is being resolved right now,” Couristan spokesman Larry Mahurter said. “It is not that big of a deal.”

That wasn't how Mutual of Omaha saw it. The company started using the Wild Kingdom trademark in 1963, and the trademark has become synonymous with the company, the suit says.

“Couristan's use of the Wild Kingdom designation in connection with its carpet collection is likely to cause the public to believe, contrary to fact, that the carpet collection emanates from and/or is sponsored or otherwise approved by Mutual of Omaha, and/or that Mutual of Omaha is somehow connected to or affiliated with the carpet collection,” the suit says. “... Further, Couristan's use of the Wild Kingdom designation in the manner alleged herein unfairly trades and free-rides on the goodwill and reputation that Mutual of Omaha has developed.”

The lawsuit asks a judge to bar Couristan from using the Wild Kingdom trademark, to pay compensatory damages and to fork over profits attributable to the improper usage of the phrase.

Mutual of Omaha is one of the city's largest companies, with about 3,200 employees and 2012 profit of $284 million on $6.4 billion of revenue.

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