Little House On The Prairie Museum Sued

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The Little House on the Prairie Museum, located near Independence, Kan., on the site where the Ingalls family once settled, has been sued by the production company behind the Little House on the Prairie TV series. At issue is who really owns the rights to the name "Little House on the Prairie."

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

There's a little kerfuffle on the prairie, and it's gone to court. Family Friendly Productions, the company behind the "Little House on the Prairie" TV series, has filed suit against the nonprofit "Little House on the Prairie" museum near Independence, Kansas. At issue: who owns the name?

Mr. BILL KURTIS (Television Journalist; Proprietor, Little House on the Prairie Museum, Kansas): We've come all the way out here, and you'll never believe what we found.

BLOCK: Bill Kurtis, A&E host and current pitchman for AT&T's laptop connect card, owns the museum along with his sister Jean Kurtis Schodorf. She's a Kansas state senator.

State Senator JEAN KURTIS SCHODORF (Republican, Kansas; Proprietor, Little House on the Prairie Museum, Kansas): We have kept it very simple, so that people, and especially children, could imagine what it would be like to live out on the prairie.

BLOCK: The museum is on the Kurtis family farm. It includes a replica of the Ingalls' log cabin. In 1970, four years before the TV series, researchers determined that the Ingalls family once settled on what is now the Kurtis property. Laura Ingalls Wilder told that story in "Little House on the Prairie." The Kurtises say they have the proper trademarks. They sell souvenirs. And proceeds go to maintaining the museum. And that is where the trouble comes in.

Family Friendly Productions says the author's heirs granted it literary and merchandising rights back in 1974. In a statement to NPR, the production company says the Kurtis family is running a vigorous retail store on the Internet, selling a wide variety of unauthorized merchandise which has nothing to do with advancing tourism at the museum. Family Friendly Productions says Laura Ingalls Wilder would be appalled. No, museum co-owner Jean Schodorf says, she'd be appalled at the production company's lawsuit. Schodorf says she finds comfort in the author's own words.

State Senator SCHODORF: "It is best to be honest and truthful, to make the most of what you have, to be happy with simple pleasures, to be cheerful and to have courage when things go wrong," Laura Ingalls Wilder.

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