Oleg Cassini was a French-born American fashion designer who created a wardrobe for Jacqueline Kennedy. Now, the company that he founded, Oleg Cassini Inc., finds itself embroiled in trademark litigation with Serta, Inc., over Serta’s decision to name a particular mattress model the “Cassini.”
The dispute arose when Serta unveiled a line of mattresses, to be sold exclusively at J.C. Penney stores, with names that were related to outer space. Among them were Gemini, Eclipse, Taurus, Moonscape, Nebula – and Cassini. Serta claimed that the name was inspired by Giovanni Domenico Cassini (1625-1712), an Italian-French astronomer and mathematician who was the first person to observe four of Saturn’s moons. When the Oleg Cassini company found out about the existence of products such as the “Serta Perfect Day Cassini Firm Twin Mattress Set,” it sent a cease-and-desist letter to the Serta company, declaring that it was “amazed” to see the Cassini name on the J.C. Penney website and stating that the mattress company does not have the right to use the “Cassini or Oleg Cassini” trademarks.
Serta responded by discontinuing the model immediately, but this was not enough for Cassini, the complaint contends. Cassini proceeded to demand that J.C. Penney ensure that no floor models (including close-outs) be sold under the Cassini name. In addition, Cassini threatened to sue for infringement if it did not receive “a reasonable offer of damages and a detailed plan for correcting the improper usage of the Cassini mark.” Instead of offering to pay damages, Serta filed a declaratory judgment complaint in the Northern District of Illinois seeking a judicial ruling of non-infringement.
Serta’s attorneys argue that Cassini “has no federal or common law trademark rights in the name “Cassini” in connection with mattress and/or bedding products” and that “there simply is no evidence that consumers were or would be confused as to the source, origin, affiliation or sponsorship of the Serta PERFECT DAY Cassini mattress model or that consumers would believe there was some connection with Oleg Cassini or his clothing or perfume line.”