New Orleans — Many dyed-in-the-wool New Orleanians and Carnival aficionados recognize one true king of the season: Rex, the “Monarch of Merriment.” A San Antonio alcohol company apparently was betting on that connection when last year it launched a new alcohol line: King REX.
The School of Design, which operates as the Rex Organization, isn’t interested in the connection, though, and on Thursday filed a federal lawsuit claiming copyright infringement of its trademarks.
The lawsuit seeks damages and injunctive relief against Sal N. Oritz and Rex Spirits, Inc. for what the Rex Organization says is an unauthorized and misleading affiliation with its products.
The lawsuit specifically claims that Rex Spirits makes products that use many of the Rex Organization’s symbols and trademarks, such as “King of Carnival” and “Monarch of Merriment” in its packaging and marketing in an effort to sell products and to confuse the public.
A phone number listed on Rex Spirits’ website was disconnected Friday. An email message seeking comment was not returned.
King Logan, a Rex Organization official, said during an interview that the lawsuit was filed after an “ongoing dialogue” and a cease and desist letter failed to stop the alcohol company from using the Carnival krewe’s trademarks.
Logan said the Rex Organization acknowledges that several registered trademarks exist that legally include the name Rex. But, the lawsuit notes, “none of these products has used the name Rex in conjunction with symbols of New Orleans Mardi Gras without any other marks which would distinguish their marks from Rex, the King of Carnival.”
Logan said the alcohol company’s use of his organization’s symbols is “a clear-cut example” of a commercial entity unlawfully and unethically using the Rex Organization’s history and name to “capitalize on its sales and profit goals.”
“This company’s marketing efforts using the Rex Organization’s history, images, symbols and related iconic content with the name King Rex Spirits, with no other distinguishing marks, is analogous to identity theft,” Logan said in a statement.
Last year the Rex Organization asked ’tit Rex, a small Bywater krewe that rolls decorated shoeboxes through the neighborhood’s streets, to change its name, again citing infringement. The smaller krewe complied with the request by flipping the “e” upside down.
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