There’s a little lawsuit on the West Coast involving the non-profit Little House on the Prairie museum that sits on the Kansas homestead where author Laura Ingalls Wilder briefly lived and now owned by Chicago journalist Bill Kurtis and his sister.
Family Friendly Productions, maker of the 1974-83 Melissa Gilbert- Michael Landon “Little House on the Prairie” NBC series, sued Little House on the Prairie Inc., the non-profit that operates the museum, a gift shop and Web site, last week in Los Angeles federal court.
“We’ve got two trademarks, and we’re very secure in it, so we’re going to fight them,” Kurtis, whose sister is president of the non-profit group, said Wednesday. “We’ll move for dismissal immediately.”
The TV company says in its suit that it acquired rights to “Little House on the Prairie” for TV, movies, theme parks and merchandise from the author’s heirs in 1974. It claims trademark infringement, trademark dilution and unfair competition. The company not only wants to stop the museum outside Independence, Kan., from using the trademark, it also wants unspecified damages and the money the non-profit group has made from use of the name.
Kurtis’ parents started the museum in 1977 to encourage children to read, and it gets 12,000 to 15,000 visitors annually to the site where researchers say the Ingalls family lived between 1869 and 1871. The museum is said to make only around $90,000 a year, budgeted for salaries and expenses.
The museum has trademarks for clothing, toys and other merchandise and, according to the suit, says it has common law rights to the Little House on the Prairie name as a service mark. It registed its littlehouseontheprairie.com site more than eight years ago.
The non-profit group rejected an offer of $40,000 from Friendly Family in exchange for their trademarks “and they wanted us to change our Web site,” said Kurtis, a member of the Kansas bar.
Good grief. If the museum has been using “Little House on the Prairie” since 1977, this might be one of those rare cases where laches could be a winning theory.