Teresa Earnhardt, known for being staunchly protective of the Dale Earnhardt brand and marks, is trying to keep a couple from using "Earnhardt" in the name of homes they developed.
That couple? Dale Earnhardt's son Kerry Earnhardt and Kerry's wife, Rene.
Kerry and Rene helped design and promote the "Earnhardt Collection" of homes built by Schumacher Homes. They also plan to add furniture to the Earnhardt Collection brand.
Teresa Earnhardt, Kerry's stepmother and Dale's widow, doesn't want the couple to use the name Earnhardt Collection and filed an appeal last week in federal court over a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruling that denied Teresa's challenge to the "Earnhardt Collection" trademark applied for by Kerry Earnhardt Inc.
"Rene and I have worked extremely hard to develop the Earnhardt Collection brand and make it uniquely ours," Kerry Earnhardt said in a statement to ESPN.com "I chose to leave a successful career in racing and could not be happier with what we've been able to achieve in the five years we've been building our home lifestyle brand inspired by our love of the outdoors."
Although the statement is diplomatic, it is obvious there is friction between Teresa Earnhardt and Kerry, son of Dale Earnhardt and his first wife. Kerry went to live with his mother, Latane, and her new husband and took on the last name of Key at age 3. In testimony to the Trademark and Trial Appeal Board, Kerry said his father helped him get the Earnhardt name back after he had started a relationship with his father at age 16.
"I was born an Earnhardt and I felt that I had the right to own that name and be part of me, and he was all for it," Kerry Earnhardt testified.
Hate that my brother & family have to deal w/ this nonsense for over 4 yrs. It's our name too! We were born w/ it! https://t.co/QtRQ7dZKfw
- Kelley Earnhardt (@EarnhardtKelley) May 6, 2016
Teresa Earnhardt didn't testify in the case but states in her appeal that the name Earnhardt Collection is likely to deceive or cause confusion among people that the homes and products are endorsed by Dale Earnhardt or by her.
"Applicant's potential use of Earnhardt Collection on furniture may falsely suggest to the public in this country that such goods enjoy a sponsorship approval or other commercial connection with Dale Earnhardt or his successor-in-interest," Teresa Earnhardt states in a filing with the trademark office.
Kelley Earnhardt-Miller, daughter of Dale and second wife Brenda Jackson, testified that no one has confused the Earnhardt Collection of being associated with her brother, Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Both Kerry and Rene have been active in promoting the homes and played an integral role in the award-winning home designs, which are offered in 14 states.
Kerry said he has no relationship with Teresa. He was fired from Dale Earnhardt Inc. in 2011 at around the time he began working with Schumacher Homes, he said in testimony.
"Just me and my wife trying to build a brand for our family and everything, and then for her to come and oppose it -- I don't think if you had a relationship that any family member would do that," Kerry said in his testimony.