By Judy Reed
The Cedar Springs Area Chamber of Commerce has given the city’s annual holiday tree lighting a new twist. Not only does it feature some new events, but a new name as well. And it’s been registered with the state of Michigan.
According to the Chamber’s president, Shawn Kiphart, the committee for the event, which will now feature activities all day, decided that the name of the event should tell people where it is. So they called it “A Red Flannel Town Christmas, Come Mingle with Kris Kringle.”
“We could have named it “Family Hometown Christmas” but that doesn’t tell me where it is,” explained Kiphart. “We knew that it would be in Cedar Springs, and that Santa would be there. We live in Red Flannel Town, and always have, so decided that’s what we would call it.”
However, the Red Flannel Festival has taken exception to the title “Red Flannel Town.”
“Michele Andres (Red Flannel Festival president) called me a few days after I put up the event page and said that we couldn’t use it, that it was too similar,” said Kiphart. “She said I would need to send an email to the board to ask for permission.”
Kiphart said he called the state of Michigan to find out if that was indeed the case. “The state told me it didn’t look like anyone was using it, but to fill out an application and they would check it out. So that’s what we did, and they approved it,” he explained.
He also registered two other taglines, which were both approved: A Red Flannel Town Christmas, and The Original Red Flannel Town, USA, Cedar Springs, MI.
But Andres said that the Chamber could be infringing, even though the state approved it. “We think it’s important to emphasize that the Red Flannel Festival owns a number of its own marks which identify Festival branding as the source of various goods and services. For example, the RFF holds three variations of trademark registrations for THE RED FLANNEL TOWN. It’s the RFF board’s position that consumers would be confused between the two marks as the mark THE RED FLANNEL TOWN is, and has been, so closely associated with the RFF.
“The City recognized this last year when deciding on how to use the mark on city property. It seems clear that members of the public will think that the Red Flannel Town Christmas, etc. is in some way associated with the RFF.”
Andres would like to have the Chamber ask them if they can use the logo. She told the Post that they were ready to sign an agreement with an incoming business who asked to use their logo on its product, and they were going to do it at no charge.
“Certainly the Red Flannel Board agrees both organizations can work together to promote Cedar Springs as ‘The Red Flannel Town’ as long as the Chamber approaches the Board and asks its permission to use its property in a manner consistent with Board policy. To date, they have been unwilling to do that. The Board is merely policing its rights in order to maintain the strength of its brand and trademarks. We would think the Chamber would respect these rights and the Red Flannel brand and go about this in the right way so the entire Cedar Springs community can benefit,” she said.
Kiphart said that he has already gotten a phone call from the Festival’s lawyer about it. He said he assured him he would only be using the words and phrases he registered, not any Red Flannel logos.
Kiphart said he is a huge supporter of the Red Flannel Festival and has no beef with them. But he argues that Cedar Springs was known as Red Flannel Town before the Festival came into being, and that “Red Flannel Town” belongs to the community to use. “I registered it as a name, not as a brand,” he said. “It’s the town’s. I registered it to make sure the community could use it. Red Flannel Town is where I live, and most of the community thinks that, too, so I’m going to honor that.”