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Local kids discovery center alleges Rexburg copied its business

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AMMON — A lawsuit between an Ammon business and the city of Rexburg over copyright issues is progressing.

In February 2020, Kids’ Town in Ammon filed suit against Rexburg’s Kidsburg claiming the city copied Kids’ Town’s “look and feel” in addition to a copyrighted farm environment used by the business.

Kids’ Town in Ammon is a children’s discovery center that offers indoor play and learning opportunities for children for a price, in addition to offering a pre-school program. Kids’ Town opened its doors in June 2017.

Sixteen months later, Rexburg opened its own discovery center inside the Zone Recreation Center. The city called it Kidsburg and it offers an indoor play place similar to Kids’ Town.

“I can still remember exactly where I was standing,” Kids’ Town founder and owner Lauren Tatton told EastIdahoNews.com. “I had somebody walk up to me and say, ‘Hey, why aren’t you at your grand opening today? She said Kidsburg is opening today, and so I instantly went into my office and looked it all up … that was the first time we realized there was confusion between the two places … obviously on my first initial look, I was like, ‘That is literally Kids’ Town.'”

In its lawsuit, Kids’ Town says the chief designer for Kidsburg bought passes to its center twice before opening Kidsburg. In December 2018, after Rexburg’s business had opened, Kids’ Town says it contacted the city and told it about copying concerns.

Ten days later, the city adjusted its logo but made no other move to change anything about Kidsburg.

In October 2019, Kids’ Town obtained an official copyright on the Kids’ Town logo, Kids Town Gas Station & Garage, Kids Town Barn, Kids Town Grocery and Kids Town Post Office. Several months later, it filed the lawsuit.

Tatton stresses the lawsuit has never been about making Kidsburg close.

“We had spent all this money to design and figure out all of that we just felt like … hurt or saddened that there wasn’t value in that,” Tatton said. “We want them to be successful; we just want them to offer something different than we are offering.”

The city is seeking to have the lawsuit thrown out. Its argument is discovery centers across the country have farm environments that are not specific to Kids’ Town. Additionally, Rexburg’s attorneys say the design of Kidsburg’s barn area has distinct design differences, including its barn structure, which was bought online, while Kids’ Town’s is a custom-made painted facade.

“While it is true that both the city’s center and Kids Town’s center feature cityscapes that include familiar downtown buildings, such as a bank, fire station, school, and restaurant as well as a roadway connecting the structures, these scenes are very common in children’s museums,” city attorneys wrote in a motion. “These are typical buildings that have iconic architectural elements in the design, which can be found in other similar installations and cultural references beyond children’s centers.”

The city also wants the lawsuit dropped because there is no evidence customers have mistaken Kidsburg and Kids’ Town for each other.

“Really part of the frustration with Kidsburg opening is Kids’ Town is privately owned, it’s not a super profitable business … I still work full time and as a family, we’ve made pretty big sacrifices to make Kids’ Town work,” said Lauren’s husband, Royce Tatton. “To see something that you’ve worked so hard for and something you made sacrifices for get copied and with public grants and taxpayer-subsidized money … is pretty frustrating.”

In total, Kids’ Town is seeking $3,892 in damages for lost sales between its annual and daily passes.

Kidsburg has been closed since March 2020 because of COVID 19. The center only operates during Rexburg’s colder months and closes during the summer.

Rexburg attorneys could not comment on the ongoing lawsuit.

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