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RF Festival threatens Chamber with legal action

By Judy Reed

 

The Red Flannel Festival has sent a “cease and desist” letter to the Cedar Springs Area Chamber of Commerce, ordering them to stop using the terms “The Red Flannel Town” and “Red Flannel Town, USA” or face legal action.

When the Chamber organized the city’s annual holiday event this year, they named it “A Red Flannel Town Christmas, Come Mingle with Kris Kringle” and registered the name with the State of Michigan on October 8, 2013. “Our position is that Cedar Springs is Red Flannel Town and always has been, and that’s why the holiday event was so titled,” explained Chamber president Shawn Kiphart.

N-pull-quote-KiphartThey also registered two other taglines, which were both approved by the state: A Red Flannel Town Christmas, and The Original Red Flannel Town, USA, Cedar Springs, MI.

The Red Flannel Festival shows they registered “The Red Flannel Town” on June 3, 2005, and “Red Flannel Town, U.S.A.” on June 27, 2011.

Although the state approved the Chamber’s taglines, the Red Flannel Festival feels it is trademark infringement. “We believe the Chamber’s use of these trademarks constitutes trademark infringement, unfair competition, as well as other common law causes of action,” read the cease and desist letter sent by the Red Flannel Festival’s lawyer, Frank Scutch.

Kiphart responded with a letter asking where they had infringed on the Red Flannel Festival’s property, stating that they would not use their specific phrases without permission. The Festival’s law firm then sent a response that the Chamber insignias specifically incorporate the Festival’s registered marks “The Red Flannel Town” and “Red Flannel Town, U.S.A.” and that their use on their own or as part of a phrase is a direct violation of the Red Flannel Festival’s trademark rights. The letter also said that was likely to “cause confusion as to the source or sponsorship of Chamber materials and events.”

Kiphart doesn’t agree. “Red Flannel Town is part of a larger title we use. We are referencing Cedar Springs. There is no confusion. I don’t think people think, ‘Oh, it’s the Red Flannel Festival,’ we believe they think of Cedar Springs.”

He noted that Cedar Springs was known as the Red Flannel Town long before the Festival trademarked it. On their application, it states that the first time the phrase was used in commerce was October 1, 1950. But there are meeting minutes by the City of Cedar Springs dating back to December of 1941 showing the city was using it on their letterhead at that time.

Kiphart said he would like to know, does the Red Flannel Festival not think Cedar Springs is the Red Flannel Town? That it should only be used in connection with the Festival itself?

The Post asked Festival President Michele Andres that question. “The Festival has owned several state and federal trademarks for many years,” she said. “Red Flannel Town and Red Flannel Town, USA are both owned legally by the Festival regardless of anyone’s personal opinion. The Festival has readily granted permission to several organizations and entities who formally request to use its various trademarks. These marks simply do not belong to the Chamber.”

Kiphart said he doesn’t think they should belong to either entity. “It doesn’t belong to us. It’s the town’s identity,” he said. “If they are asking us to stop referring to Cedar Springs as the Red Flannel Town, we will not. Fear and intimidation tactics will not work on us. They are more than welcome to keep spending money on attorney fees to strip the town of its identity, but we will not play ball.”

Andres remarked that Kiphart needs to schedule some time to professionally and maturely discuss the matter directly with the Red Flannel Festival Board of Directors. “We have asked to meet numerous times and have received no response. It is extremely disappointing that this organization’s leadership does not understand or comprehend basic trademark infringement, especially as business owners.”

Kiphart said they have never declined to meet with them about using the Festival’s  logo. “As we have not wanted to use their exact logo, we haven’t met,” he explained. “We didn’t contact them to ask permission to use the town’s identity.”

Kiphart said the Chamber might be open to sitting down with the Festival to discuss the issue, as long as it was open to the public.

“We want to know what the community thinks,” said Kiphart. “We will do what the community wants. If the community wants us to tell them (the RFF) to take their ball and go home, we will.”

According to the most recent letter sent to the Chamber by the Festival, they have until February 4 to discuss with the Festival the steps they will take to “cease infringement of the RFF’s trademarks.” If they do not hear from them, “the RFF will have no choice but to take legal action against the Chamber,” the letter said.

What do you think? Send us a letter to the editor at news@cedarspringspost.com (limit 350 words), comment on this post, call the Chamber at 616-773-5126, or the Red Flannel Festival at 616-696-2662.

The Red Flannel Festival will also be having their annual board meeting tonight (Thursday, January 30) at 6:30 p.m. at their office on 21 E. Maple Street, where they will vote on a new grand marshal for this year’s 75th Festival, and elect their officers for the year. Those wishing to volunteer are also welcome.

 

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12 Responses to “RF Festival threatens Chamber with legal action”

  1. Kathy says:

    Cedar Springs is the “Red Flannel Town”, has been and always will be. It IS our IDENTITY no matter how hard the Festival Board tries to snuff it out. The board has done nothing but bring divisiveness to our community for the past several years. The problem could be one of leadership.
    The Chamber is really stepping up and promoting CS and pulling the community together. Do what the city council did, tell them to “take their ball and go home”.
    In the meantime, set up an account for contributions so the community can support the Chamber if the RFF takes them to court. Show no fear!

  2. By their continuing aggressive actions toward anyone who appears to be at cross-purposes with them, the Red Flannel Festival is showing that they are only concerned with the Red Flannel Festival. Clearly they are not concerned about the city of Cedar Springs.

  3. Scott says:

    I think the Red Flannel Board needs a recall. Why are they fighting so much? Wake up people, if you think the Red Flannel Board has anything to do with supporting our Community, you are wrong. The Andres family runs the books!!! The Red Flannel Board President and her cronies orchestrate all this bad press, division and drama. Did you know that most of the Flannel Board do not even live in the City of Cedar Springs? Just give us, the people that live here, OUR identity back! You took it away! Take responsibility and stop blaming others for what you have done. Give our Festival to the Chamber to run, they at least are thinking of the Community and not their pockets. You are bully’s and we are tired of it. Were tired of hearing we are protecting our identity, its not yours, it belongs to Cedar Springs!

  4. J Cheevy says:

    I have never seen comments that have been so misguided and just plain wrong. You can’t recall the Red Flannel Festival board, they are all volunteers and elected, and when I volunteer I don’t see any of you people volunteering. Michele Andres organizes the bad press? Are you serious? Who would want bad press?! What business wants bad press? The business who’s stealing! The Chamber wants the Festival to take a beating in the public arena, while using the name to improve and better their events. Wake up people

  5. Resident says:

    There is one common denominator here, the RFF. First they threatened a lawsuit against the City of Cedar Springs, then threatened the Library for selling license plate covers for their fundraiser, now they are threatening the Chamber. How can it be these entities are at fault and the RFF the innocent party? It’s a shame a few on the RFF board are turning this into an ugly unnecessary fight against the Cedar Springs Community. Aren’t they supposed to promote Cedar Springs and bringing the Community together? How much longer does the RFF think they’ll get donations from local businesses if they continue down this path? Without those donations, how long do they think they will survive? Perhaps the RFF Board should reread their Mission Statement and rewrite it if they no longer want to follow it.

  6. Sapphire says:

    I agree with all that have responded so far. There wouldn’t be a Red Flannel Festival if Cedar Springs wasn’t known as the Red Flannel Town! Does the egg come before the chicken or the chicken before the egg?? If the City and Chamber cannot refer to Cedar Springs as the Red Flannel town then why have a festival??? Wouldn’t the City and Chamber promoting us as “The Red Flannel Town” in turn help the festival with free advertising?? They’re cutting off their nose to spite their face.

  7. Cindy says:

    Most people in the town know that the Red Flannel Festival is run by volunteers. What they don’t realize is that they have by laws that they must adhere to which state office terms. If the town does not like what the president of the Festival is doing and the board of directors they should get a copy of their by laws and see what can be done to remove them and to get some volunteers in there to ensure the well being of the towns legacy of being the “Red Flannel Town” and bring back harmony to our town regarding the City, the Chamber, the Library, and the Festival.
    All of these organizations should be working together in the best interest of the town as a whole, thus enhancing all the organizations in Cedar Springs instead of giving us a Black Eye to the rest of the world!

  8. Frustrated Resident says:

    J Cheepvy you are obviously in support of the RFF Board. I do not think anyone else is against the festival, but the board doesn’t support community outside of their event. Their argument that they support community is false. The city tried to work with them and the RFF Board is the one to say “no”. So the city stopped fighting. The same appears to be happening with the chamber. The RFF board says they give to the community, but the truth is they only give if you work. Rotary gives to the community without anything expected in return. That is giving. They say they buy local, ask where they get the technology from, it isn’t Geek Worx. They have sent in a check to be a member of the Chamber, yet they threaten lawsuits. What about any of this makes any sense? We are considering moving out of the negative and fighting. We like many things about CS, but there needs to be more positive interaction and true support. People around the area laugh at our community right now because of this drama. The RFF board is vindictive and they black ball people who are not in support of them. Notice they have not allowed comments on their Facebook page that do not support them. I know of people who have been verbally attacked because they do not support the RFF board. I hate to say it, but maybe we boycott the festival and support the other positive organizations in CS.

  9. CS resident says:

    I think they should move the Festival to a different town…running from pitchforks and lynch mobs sheesh!…we’d LOVE them to come to our little town…

  10. Trisha Dart says:

    There are so many wonderful comments in support of the chamber of commerce. I am another who supports them. We are and will always be The Red Flannel Town. The RFF need to understand the perspective of the citizens of Cedar Springs. We are tired of the fighting. We want our community back with our slogan without questions. I grew up here and I want to raise a family here but I also want community. Stand tall Chamber in yor decision. I support you.

  11. Cindy says:

    Boycotting the Red Flannel Festival is not in the best interest of the community. Changing leadership of the Red Flannel Festival may be a better choice. There was always cooperation between the City and the Red Flannel Festival Board prior to the current Festival president. How many years is this community going to put up with this type of public bullying before someone steps up to correct this problem? SHE IS A VOLUNTEER AND CAN BE REMOVED IF SHE DOES NOT HAVE THE BEST INTEREST OF THE COMMUNITY AT HEART. Maybe if some concerned citizens banded together, they may stand a chance to change this problem. But unless that happens this type of threatening behavior and bullying is going to continue from the festival board(the president).

  12. cedar springs always has been and always will be the red flannel town.if the so called board seems to think otherwise then I suggest they take their festival to the new solon township hall,they have enough room. I was proud to say and brag I was from the red flannel town,my how things change when they think they can be a somebody. myself and family missed last last yr. and will not bother to attend another. I hope everyone is proud that they ruined a good thing!!!!!!

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