On August 30, 2018, the makers of the now iconic pine tree-shaped air fresheners, Car-Freshner Corp., filed suit in federal court in the Northern District of New York against Bob Ross Inc. and Surreal Entertainment, alleging that the defendants violated state and federal trademark laws by selling pine tree-shaped car fresheners which pictured the face of the famed host of The Joy of Painting.
In the complaint, Car-Freshner Corp. alleges that the defendants’ products are confusingly similar its well-known dashboard accessory and that customers are likely to believe that the infringing product is affiliated with the Car-Freshners brand. The plaintiff further argues that defendants are diluting the unique commercial impression of the Tree Design Marks with their strikingly similar product. The infringing product is constructed in the same distinctive abstract tree design, which has been trademarked by the plaintiff for the past 60 years, and features Bob Ross’s face along with a popular Ross quote about “happy trees.” Car-Freshner argues that the defendants were well aware of their infringing action, yet continued to sell the product.
Defendants are being accused of infringing on a registered trademark and violating the Lanham Act and New York General Business Law, in addition to diluting a trademark. In addition to monetary damages, the plaintiff is requesting that the defendants be preliminarily and permanently enjoined from the manufacture, production, sale, import, export, distribution, advertisement, promotion, display or any other exploitation of the infringing product.
The suit is: Car-Freshner Corp. et al. v. Surreal Entertainment LLC, Case No.: 5:18-cv-01037, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York.
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