NEW ORLEANS — A New Orleans Mardi Gras organization has sued a California liquor distributor over claims of trademark infringement.
The Rex Organization, which stages one of the city’s premier Mardi Gras parades, says businessman Sal Ortiz of Rex Spirits Inc. is unlawfully combining the Rex name with Mardi Gras images to market products under the name “King REX Spirits.” The lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court claims the images violate trademarks of the Rex Organization.
The company did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Friday.
The Rex parade is a signature event on the pre-Lenten holiday of Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, which this year is Feb. 12. The philanthropic and social organization was founded in 1872 and also is known formally as The School of Design. Every year the group’s hierarchy chooses a prominent local man with deep roots in the city’s social and business communities as Rex, king of carnival, a make-believe monarch ruling over the citywide celebration.
“Rex Spirits, Inc., produces and markets vodka, rum and bourbon under the name ‘King REX,’ the packaging of which is replete with symbols of the Rex Organization and New Orleans Mardi Gras, including the colors purple, gold and green, a carnival mask, the phrase ‘faith, justice, power,’ a crown and the name King REX,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit doesn’t say use of the name Rex alone is a trademark infringement.
“It is only when, by combining the name REX with Mardi Gras without any other distinguishing characteristics, as King REX has done, that the School of Design’s trademarks are infringed,” the lawsuit states.
It asks the court to block the manufacture, sale and advertising of the products and seeks an undetermined amount of monetary damages.