Lithuanian firm sued for holding beauty pageant

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VILNIUS, LITHUANIA (AP) - Move over Miss Universe _ make way for Mrs. Universe.

It might sound like a nifty promotional idea for a small East European country like Lithuania, but owners of the Miss Universe trademark _ entrepreneur Donald Trump and NBC Universal _ aren’t amused.

The U.S.-based Miss Universe Organization L.P. filed suit Tuesday in a Lithuanian court claiming copyright violation by the organizers of the Mrs. Universe pageant that was held Saturday in the Baltic state.

“Our claim is very simple. The title was used illegally because all rights belong to the U.S.-based company,” Erikas Saukalas, a lawyer representing Miss Universe Organization L.P., told reporters in Vilnius.

“We will also demand compensation for losses. I believe the court will evaluate the damage done to this trademark,” Saukalas said, adding that the size of losses was still being calculated.

The organizer of the Mrs. Universe pageant, which was shown live on TV3, a regional cable TV channel, denied any wrongdoing.

“Universe is a generic word, so the U.S. company’s claims are ungrounded,” said Evelina Gruzdiene, director of pageant organizer Pramogu Akademija.

Jennika Hannusaari of Finland won the Mrs. Universe pageant, which featured competitors from 22 countries such as Venezuela and Armenia. As the name suggests, all contestants had to be married.

On Monday a 22-year-old Mexico woman, Jimena Navarrete, was crowned Miss Universe in a Las Vegas show that boasted 83 contestants.

One of the main thrusts of the Lithuanian pageant was awareness of human trafficking, which continues to plague many East European countries. Participants held a discussion on the topic in Lithuania’s government, which helped sponsor the pageant, and presented a project, “Beauty Against Human Trafficking,” as a possible idea to combat the problem.

Gruzdiene did not rule out that it was the trafficking aspect that triggered a lot of the criticism of the pageant.

“Huge amounts of money is involved in that business, so we can only guess that someone disliked this idea,” Gruzdiene said.

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Online: http://www.mrsuniverse2010.com/

(This version CORRECTS the word “company” to “country” in paragraph 2. )

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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