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Carpets R Us Asks Court to Shield Its Name : Trademark: Toys R Us demands a change on grounds of infringement. But the Orange County firm says that would pull the rug from under it.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

At first the letters were almost pleasant in tone. Typed on stationery sporting the Toys R Us mascot--a friendly-faced giraffe--company lawyers politely requested that the Anaheim carpet store change its name.

Some of the letters even suggested new names for Carpets R Us, which the New Jersey-based toy retailer claimed infringed upon its trademark. Carpets & You was one suggestion.

Dennis and Mary Little, owners of Carpets R Us, initially hoped that the toy giant would back down after the letters started arriving in March.

“Our first reaction was to ignore them,” said Mary Little, whose husband founded the discount carpet warehouse seven years ago. “But in the back of our minds, we knew that big corporations don’t joke around.”

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Sure enough, Toys R Us wrote again. And then again.

“As time progressed, the letters became more forceful,” said Nicholes Ghnouly, an Anaheim lawyer representing the Littles.

Toys R Us has not actually sued the Anaheim company, but Carpets R Us filed its own suit last week in Orange County Superior Court. The complaint asks the court for the right to use the name Carpets R Us. It also seeks reimbursement of its legal costs from Toys R Us.

The Littles point out that they have run their business without incident since 1984, when they registered the name Carpets R Us with the state Department of Corporations.

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“For years, we didn’t hear a word from (Toys R Us),” said Mary Little. “Why did it take them so long to find us?”

Had Toys R Us approached the Littles at the time their store opened--before they invested lots of time and money into establishing an identity--a name change would have been a lot simpler, Little added.

“Our customers know us as Carpets R Us,” she said. “And it would cost a lot to change our stationery, businesses cards and invoices.”

Toys R Us officials could not be reached.

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But the toy retailer said in its letters to Carpets R Us that its name “is likely to cause confusion with respect to our (trade) mark.” It cited a recent trademark dispute that Toys R Us won against a company called Phones R Us.

Toys R Us has 451 stores throughout the United States, including eight in Orange County. It has used its name since the late 1950s.

Ghnouly disputed contentions by Toys R Us that the carpet store’s name implies a relationship between the two businesses.

“The products (sold by the companies) are entirely different,” he said.

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