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Tag Archive | "Michele Andres"

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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Chamber registers insignia for Red Flannel Town Christmas


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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.”

 

 

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Red Flannel pirates invade Cedar Springs


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Thousands of people “buttoned down the hatches” last weekend and rocked Red Flannel Day in lots of red and even dressed in Red Flannel pirate garb.

Red Flannel Festival President Michele Andres said that the mild, mostly dry weather brought thousands of people downtown. “Anytime we can have warm, dry weather the attendance soars. All events indicated attendance up from last year,” she said.

Andres said that the earlier time of the Firefighter Memorial Parade generated a lot of visitors downtown on Friday evening, with the highest attendance of the carnival on any previous Friday evening.

“For the first year, the Festival had television commercials on FOX 17 (instead of Charter) and we believe that boosted attendance as well,” explained Andres.

N-RedFlannel-crowd-webSeveral food vendors sold out and the Marketplace and Car Show was well attended.

New this year was a trolley to move people to different venues. “The trolley was well utilized, and since it is a new event this year, we believe the awareness will increase next year,” noted Andres. “It made a large loop around the City with several stops at different venues until the Parade started.”

“The trolley was a fun addition to the Festival and those who rode it appreciated having that service,” added RFF second Vice President Anna Nozkowski.

N-RF-Pirate-girl-webMissing this year was the Cedar Springs Fire Department’s old Model A fire engine. According to Fire Chief Marty Fraser, it is being restored and was not available for use. Instead of the Fire engine, Keystone Cops used golf carts and the Trolley to haul people to jail for not wearing red.

On the down side, the tractor pulls were canceled due to the condition of the track (too much rain).

Andres said that overall, the Red Flannel Board of Directors received several compliments on a great Festival and believe it all went extremely well. “Nine volunteer board members (4 of them new this year) did an outstanding job!” she remarked.

The Board will take a hiatus until the end of January, when planning for the 75th Festival will begin.

RED-horses-lois

 

 

RED-SoccerFloat-judy

Posted in Featured, News, Red Flannel PostComments Off

Festival proposes city pay to use trademark


By Judy Reed

 

It was 1939, when Cedar Springs Clipper editor Nina Babcock said the businesses decided to tag Cedar Springs as the “Red Flannel Town” and hold a festival. The name stuck, and has been used cooperatively by the city and the festival for many years. The recognizable logo of a pair of long johns hanging on the clothesline and the words “Red Flannel Town” or “Red Flannel Festival” can be seen all over the city—on street signs, city trucks, letterhead, the water tower, and signs welcoming people to Cedar Springs.

That could change, however, if the city decides it cannot afford a licensing agreement recently proposed by the Red Flannel Festival for $8,000—the same amount the city told the Festival last year they would need to start paying to cover services the city provides, such as police protection at the Grand Lodge, DPW work, etc. for Red Flannel weekends.

At budget time last year, the City of Cedar Springs had a deficit of $55,000, and cut services to all community organizations, and also made cuts to city staff. “We had to cut so deep that no one was immune,” City Manager Christine Burns told the Post last year.

They city decided to phase in the cuts to the Festival, and donors came forward to help cover the difference. The two entities completed an agreement for four years with the Festival offering to pay $8,000 each year to the city for services rendered.

According to documents the Post obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the RFF is now proposing a licensing agreement for the city’s use of the Festival’s trademark—for $8,000 per year, through 2015. Festival president Michele Andres said it’s difficult to determine what the trademark is worth. “What is the cost of someone’s identity and brand for 72 years? It’s been a shared responsibility—a quid pro quo. Now that seems to be over. The Red Flannel ad hoc committee thought that $8,000 would be cost neutral to both parties—to put it back where it used to be,” explained Andres.

The first indication that there was a problem with the city using the trademarked logos and text came in December, when the city ordered and began selling Red Flannel license plates and frames for the library fundraising program. According to Mayor Charlie Watson, Mayor Pro-Tem Christine Fahl was notified by the Red Flannel Festival committee that there was an issue of trademark infringement, and he told city staff to pull the plates until they could work through the issue. The Festival was on hiatus from November through January, and the Festival ad hoc committee (with three members from City Council—Watson, Fahl, and Pat Capek) met with the Festival committee.

According to documents and checks and invoices obtained by the Post, the RFF wrote the city a check for the license plates. Burns said the understanding was that the city would reimburse them next August for the plates they sold. The city then decided to write a check back to them right away, assuring them they would sell them all. But it was returned by the Festival, and they are working with the library to sell the plates. You can buy them at City Hall or the library (see story on page 7)

So why did the Festival pick now to enforce trademark rules with the city? “Obviously we support the library. But the board felt like it’s their duty to protect the trademarks,” explained Andres. “It’s created confusion—is it the city or the festival? We only generate revenue through donations or sales of our products, and we need to protect that. Anyone who wants to use trademarked items must get approval first.”

The RFF holds state trademarks on at least 10 different phrases and logos related to Red Flannels and the Festival is working on federal approval.

During the years that H.H. Cutler owned the main trademarks, only the Chamber of Commerce had rights to the marks, for $1 a year. That did not extend to the Festival or the city, according to a letter written to City Manager Frank Walsh in 1996 by lawyers for the children’s clothing manufacturer. Cutler later closed down.

The Post asked Burns what it would cost to remove the trademarked insignia from city property, if council decided to reject the Festival’s proposal. She wasn’t sure. “It would depend on whether it had to happen all at once or in phases,” she said.

Mayor Watson feels both sides want to work diligently to come to a compromise. “I feel both sides recognize we should work together for the betterment of the community,” he said.

“Working closely together benefits both the city and the Festival, and the community, with the economic impact the Festival brings,” noted Andres. “It’s critical that both organizations have open, honest, communication. We can’t do it without each other.”

The city will meet with the city’s lawyer on Thursday to discuss the proposal. According to Watson, they could come back with a counter offer, recommend council accept it, or that they deny it. He didn’t know yet what they would decide.

What do you think? Do you think the Festival should charge the city to use the logos? Do city taxpayers want the city to pay to use the trademark? Or is it time to develop something new? Send us a letter to the editor with your thoughts to news@cedarspringspost.com, and be sure to include your name, phone number and city or township.

 

By the numbers

Red Flannel Festival President Michele Andres told the Post last year that the 2011 budget for the Festival was about $90,000. To show how much the Red Flannel Festival has grown, total gross assets on the Festival’s 2010 tax return (the latest year available) were shown as $233,902. In 2004, the total gross assets were $4,625.

The 2010 return showed net total revenue of $57,346, with net expenses of $33,016. Net assets, including cash and savings, was listed at $130,250.

Schedule O showed gross expenses of Festival events at $45,161; and other expenses (including building and other expenses) at $16,489, for a total of $61,650. The largest single expense on Schedule O is advertising/printing, at a cost of $16,381. Gross income from fundraisers and events is listed at $65,940. The event that brought in the most money was the Grand Lodge, at $25,607 and the cost was $7,515.

 

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