Puppets Try To String Up 'New Kids'

January 13, 1991|By Sara Oppenheim | Sara Oppenheim,Contributing writer

Columbia-based puppet troupe Kids on the Block has asked a federal judge to bar a well-known pop group from continuing to call itself NewKids on the Block because of the similarity in names.

The puppet troupe, in its lawsuit filed Wednesday in federal court in New York, claims the pop group's name is a trademark infringement.

Kids on the Block, which was created in 1977, produces puppets, scripts and educational resources designed to teach young people positive attitudes and appreciation of individual differences. Many of itscharacters have physical disabilities.

A motion filed with the lawsuit seeks a preliminary injunction against the further use of the name, New Kids on the Block, while the lawsuit is pending.

More than 1,300 groups use Kids on the Block puppets. For marketing purposes newly created puppets often are introduced as "new kids on the block."

Barbara Aiello, founder of the Kids on the Block, said confusionbetween the two groups has damaged her business.

"When they (New Kids) were perceived as squeaky clean, the confusion took a positive tone," Aiello said last week. "But when they have problems, our business and our reputation is damaged."

The confusion is further complicated by the fact that the Kids on the Block markets cassettes, record albums, and T-shirts to raise money for its productions.

However, representatives for the New Kids on the Block say the similar names have posed problems for either group.

"We don't think there's a problem," said Carol Simkin, counsel for Dick Scott Entertainment, the New Kids on the Block management.

"My client has been using the mark since 1986," Simkin said. "They're so famous that it is inconceivable that anyone would grant an injunction," she said.

Simkin said she could not imagine the New Kids changing their name and she was unwilling to speculate on alternative scenarios.

Aiello said she would be willing to consider settling the dispute out of court.

"I'm willing to talk to them, but I don't know what I would be willing to settle for," she said.

The complaint, she noted, focuses on the loss of her group's image.

"Any financial settlement would have tobe sufficient to mount an international publicity campaign to reclaim our name," she said.

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