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Emmy Awards Spar With Plano Pet Products Company Over Trademark Infringement

PLANO, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) - A North Texas man who named his company after his dog is now at odds with one of the most recognizable brands in the country.

When you think of the Emmy's, Hollywood, glamour and awards may come to mind. That's exactly why the owner of a pet products store thought they were safe.

Kevin Rizer created Emmy's Best five years ago. The online company specializes in custom pet products.

Emmy the dog
Kevin Rizer and his dog, Emmy.

Rizer's dog, Emmy, served as the inspiration for the company. The 12-year-old yellow lab is part of Rizer's family in every way. The name took on even more significance after Emmy was diagnosed with cancer.

"She's our muse, our heart, soul, our inspiration," said Rizer, who lives in Plano. "We call her the CEO, which is the Chief Emmy Officer."

But now Rizer is at odds with another Emmy, only there's no prize in sight.

"It's definitely a David versus Goliath story," Rizer said.

Last February, Rizer filed for a trademark for Emmy's Best. That's when he said the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences pushed back.

NATAS, the organization behind the Emmy Awards, claimed the trademark would confuse consumers, according to Rizer.

"They don't think people can tell the difference between a pet products company.... and what they do... which is give out awards," Rizer said.

The owner tried negotiating. He even offered to drop the trademark filing. But when NATAS suggested he drop Emmy's name, Rizer refused.

"It's not just a name," Rizer said. "It is the soul of this business."

With fewer than 10 employees, Emmy's Best epitomizes a small business. Rizer said changing the name could tank the company. He alluded to the costs of rebranding the company and website, which only exists online.

"Changing that name is like starting over," Rizer said.

The owner said NATAS isn't backing down. Last month he said attorneys met for what he thought was a settlement conference.

"They showed up with six attorneys to our one," Rizer said. "They're preparing for war."

NATAS claimed it provided the inspiration for Emmy's Best. As a former TV producer, he dreamed of winning an Emmy award. A friend suggested he name his new puppy, "Emmy."

Emmy the dog
Kevin Rizer and his dog, Emmy.

It's a story detailed on the company's website. It's also a story NATAS highlights.

"Emmy has been the premier mark of excellence in television for seven decades," wrote Paul Pillitteri, the senior vice president of communications for NATAS. "Emmy's Best cites this legacy as its inspiration for copying the famous Emmy trademark."

Meanwhile, Emmy the dog is waging her own battle. As she fights her third cancer diagnosis, Rizer hope she lives to see her last Christmas.

Even in her final days, Rizer said he finds himself inspired.

"She's fighting so how can we not fight?" Rizer said.

And while Rizer never got the Emmy he dreamed of, he says the one he did get is far better.

"There's still today only one Emmy in my life and I wouldn't have it any other way," Rizer said.

NATAS did not respond to specific questions CBS 11 sent. Instead, a spokesman issued this statement:

"EMMY® has been the premier mark of excellence in television for seven decades. Emmy's Best cites this legacy as its inspiration for copying the famous EMMY trademark. We are actively and generously seeking an agreement that allows the company to continue to grow without infringing this iconic trademark."

Rizer said he hopes the ordeal doesn't devolve into a lawsuit.


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