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Catfight: Lawsuit Alleges Springfield Company Used False Means to Sell Feline Toy

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Two Springfield companies are accused in a federal lawsuit of using a New York-based company's trademarked cat toy in an infomercial and creating a scheme to pass the product off as their own.

SnugglyCat, the New York company owned by Fred and Natasha Ruckel, filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri Southern Division on March 30.

The suit names Springfield-based companies Opfer Communications Inc. and The Bargain Show LLC as defendants, in addition to several employees, such as Scott Opfer, founder and president of Opfer Communications.

Fred Ruckel, who invented the Ripple Rug, the cat toy at the center of the lawsuit, said SnugglyCat is seeking the maximum monetary amount necessary to "rehabilitate the company's brand and curtail these individuals and companies from practicing this behavior in the future."

SnugglyCat also requests a jury trial. 

The lawsuit alleges that in August 2016, Opfer Communications entered into an agreement with Rutledge & Bapst, a direct response television marketer, and B&D Solutions, a Florida company that works in online direct response telemarketing, to promote a "knock-off version" of the Ripple Rug, called the Purr N Play.

According to the lawsuit, Rutledge & Bapst and B&D Solutions created a website - purrnplaysale.com - and used photographs of the Ripple Rug and similar marketing language as SnugglyCat to sell the product. The marketing companies also allegedly sent an email blast to 963,026 people in December 2015, directing them to the Purr N Play website.

"Rutledge & Bapst and B&D Solutions had never produced the Purr N Play," the lawsuit states. "They sent the email merely to determine the extent of consumer interest in the product. They took orders for the Purr N Play based on responses to the emails and took credit card information, but never produced the product or fulfilled those orders."

According to the lawsuit, Opfer Communications entered into business with Rutledge & Bapst and B&D Solutions after the email blast was sent. Scott Opfer signed the contract with the companies in which they agreed to share profits equally and that Opfer would write the script and shoot the infomercial.

The lawsuit further alleges that Rutledge & Bapst planned to sell at least 100,000 knock-offs of the Ripple Rug ordered from a Chinese factory, but the factory was unable to produce a replica in time for the infomercial shoot. Rutledge & Bapst and Opfer agreed to use the Ripple Rug in the infomercial instead, according to the lawsuit. The infomercial was filmed at The Bargain Show's studio set on Opfer Communications premises.

SnugglyCat claims the Ripple Rug trademark is visible on the product used in the infomercial.

According to the lawsuit, Doug Schaen, Scott Opfer's half-brother and representative of The Bargain Show, emailed Ruckel to see if the company would sell the Ripple Rug on The Bargain Show. Ruckel did not respond. Schaen emailed Ruckel again in January 2017, but again Ruckel did not respond.

Together, the three companies worked to create a nationwide advertising campaign to sell the Purr N Play, the lawsuit states. They developed commercials, a website and a social media campaign using the Ripple Rug to sell their product.

The lawsuit claims that these three parties agreed to use the same scheme against two other product manufacturers.

Furthermore, SnugglyCat claims in the suit that the alleged actions by Opfer, Rutledge & Bapst, and B&D Solutions caused SnugglyCat to lose considerable revenue and implement layoffs.

SnugglyCat and Ruckel sent a cease-and-desist letter to Opfer Communications on Feb. 23, 2017, according to the lawsuit. Opfer responded by stating the company had discontinued all efforts to market and sell the Purr N Play, but the infomercial can still be found online.

(Story shared by Springfield News-Leader. Read the original article here.)


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