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That Kars4Kids Charity With the Bad Jingle Is Fighting a $10M Legal Battle Over Its Name

NJ-based Kars4Kids was ordered to pay Texas-based Cars for Kids $10.6 million for trademark infringement. Now, it's appealing the decision.
SPCPlainfield Studios via YouTube

There’s a chance none of us ever have to hear the Kars4Kids jingle ever again. If you know it, you know how awful of an earworm it is. Every time I’d see the commercial on ESPN, I’d feel like I was in Edgar Allen Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart for the rest of the day, walking around my house loudly asking if my family members could also hear the infernal racket. However, blissful relief just might be on the horizon, as Kars4Kids has been in a trademark infringement battle with the similarly named Cars for Kids charity for years.

In 2019, the District Court of New Jersey settled a trademark infringement dispute between the Garden State-based Kars4Kids charity and the Texas-based America Can! Cars for Kids charity. Both sell donated cars and use the money to help kids in need. During the dispute, the courts ultimately determined that Kars4Kids willfully infringed on Cars for Kids’ trademark in Texas, and the former (that’s “Kars” with a “K!”) was forced to pay the latter $10.6 million in damages. That penalty was later reduced to $7.8 million this past January. The court also deemed at the time that Cars for Kids had the rights to use “Cars for Kids” in its marketing. Now, though, Kars4Kids is filing an appeal to the 2019 court decision.

The legal battle between these two charities happens to go back two decades. Both were started in the 1990s, but when Cars for Kids learned of Kars4Kids’ marketing and jingle in 2003, the former filed a cease-and-desist. Then, things went silent for 10 years, as Cars for Kids was unaware of any usage of the trademark during that time. In 2013, Cars for Kids discovered that Kars4Kids was still advertising, and issued another cease and desist; the very next year, both charities lodged their trademark infringement lawsuits against each other.

Kars4Kids is most famous for the aforementioned and absolutely infuriating jingle, but it also has a bit of an odd history. This trademark infringement case isn’t the only controversy that’s come its way, as several states have issued complaints regarding the charity’s allegedly misleading operations. For instance, the Minnesota attorney general accused Kars4Kids of only donating $12,000 of the $3 million it raised in the state between 2012-2014 to Minnesota kids. According to Charity Watch, 99.9% of the money raised by Kars4Kids is given to a sister charity named Oorah, an Orthodox Jewish organization that provides money for summer camps and tuitions in New York and New Jersey. While that in itself isn’t a problem, certain states have argued that their citizens were misled by Kars4Kids into thinking donations would help local children.

The upcoming appeal will be held in court on December 15, which could determine the final outcome of this two-decade-long tiff between the two charities. I have no horse in this race; I just hope whatever outcome the court deems fair results in me never hearing that jingle again for the rest of my life.

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