KENNER, La. It's a controversy that could end up being similar to the 'Who Dat' controversy from a few years ago, but this time, the problem stems from a custom casket offered by 'Til We Meet Again, a shop in the Esplanade Mall.
The store specializes in the sale of custom caskets and urns and the store's owner, Jonathan Lahatte, said the Who Dat casket allows families to celebrate the life of a lost lived one with their favorite team.
The casket, which is painted black and gold and bears a fleur de lis symbol similar to the federally protected trademark used by the New Orleans Saints, has been prominently displayed at the front of the store since its opening in October 2013, according to the owner.
Lahatte, a long-time Saints fan, has only had the store open for about four months and already is under the microscope of the NFL and the Saints.
An attorney for the NFL and the Saints recently contacted 'Til We Meet Again and advised the company to immediately cease the sale and advertisement of the 'Who Dat Casket,' in a letter, saying, '... the Saints request that TWMA immediately cease use of the 'redesigned' fleur de lis -- or any variation of a fleur de lis that is substantially similar to the Saints' federally protected trademark -- and use of the black and gold color scheme in connection with this casket. This request includes removal of the commercial and/or image of the casket from WWL-TV, YouTube and any other website and social media.'
Saints Vice-President Greg Bensel issued a statement on behalf of the club Thursday.
'We have been in discussion and contact with the local franchisee of this Kansas based casket company before they even opened their local store. They agreed in those discussions to re-design the fleur de lis so that it was not the exact design of, or confusingly similar to, our federally registered trademarked logo. We have not sent a cease and desist demand letter to them nor have we discussed their use of WHO DAT.
'While we very much appreciate our fans and their support, we and the NFL always strive to protect our trademarks and our intellectual property at least in this world, not sure about the next. After seeing their recent TV ad, we sent a confirming privileged communication to their attorney offering to sit down and discuss the matter. Today, that privileged communication appeared in their press release sent to the media.'
Back in 2010, during the Saints' Super Bowl run, WWL-TV broke the story of local retailers who were contacted by the NFL to cease the use of the term 'Who Dat,' the fleur de lis symbol, and the combination of both, with the colors black and gold.
Fans, locally and from afar, went into a furor about the issue of who owns the rights to the symbols and saying, which have both long been associated with the city of New Orleans.
'Til We Meet Again management has contacted their local politicians including U.S. Senator David Vitter, U.S. Representative Steve Scalise, and Jefferson Parish President John Young, for their help in backing the local small business that recently opened its doors.