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Volume 34
Issue 34
 
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Task Force compelled to sue record company over rights to trademark
Task Force compelled to sue record company over rights to trademark
WASHINGTON, D.C. Aug. 22 - The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force announced today that it has filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court against Centaur Entertainment, Inc. for trademark infringement, unfair competition, false representation, fraud and violation of related federal and state laws, among other claims. Centaur has produced dance music CDs, including CDs showcasing deejays appearing at popular Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) events such as the annual Winter Party Festival in Miami's South Beach.

"Since its founding 13 years ago, the Winter Party has been 100 percent owned and produced by our community, with literally tens of thousands of volunteer hours donated to it," said Matt Foreman, the Task Force's executive director. "We took over operation and production of the event in 2004 to ensure it remained a community asset. Our attempts to resolve this issue amicably, to protect the interest of the Miami-Dade community, failed and we were left with no choice but to file suit against Centaur."

Over the last 13 years, the Winter Party has generated nearly $1.5 million in grants to Miami-Dade organizations serving the LGBT community. Since the Task Force assumed responsibility for the event and the Miami Recognition Dinner, more than $300,000 has been donated to the Dade Community Foundation to re-grant to local LGBT organizations.

Centaur, which is based in Brooklyn, N.Y., produced an authorized Winter Party CD for several years for the Dade Human Rights Foundation, which founded and organized the Winter Party before the Task Force became responsible for it. Under that authorization, Centaur was allowed to produce the CD.

"When it became apparent that little, if any, significant monetary benefit on sales of the CDs was actually being returned to the LGBT community, we decided to find another licensee," said Foreman.

Even worse, according to the lawsuit, in 2006 and unbeknownst to the Task Force, Centaur obtained a trademark registration for "Winter Party" for its own benefit by making false representations to the United States Trademark Office. Since then, Centaur has refused to yield the Winter Party trademark and has threatened the Task Force and its more recently licensed producer of the annual CD.

"The Task Force has done a tremendous job in saving and growing the Winter Party for the benefit of our community, and they shouldn't have to be dealing with this," said Jerry Chasen, chair of the committee that advises the Dade Community Foundation on the distribution of Winter Party profits.

"Regrettably, the Task Force is being forced into spending time and money on litigation - resources that should be directed to the fight for equal rights," he said.

Ironically, for a company that claims to donate funds to charity and markets itself exclusively to the LGBT community, Centaur apparently has a history of claiming itself to be the owner of trademarks related to well-known LGBT events without their knowledge or permission. For example, Trademark Office records show that Centaur applied to register for itself the "White Party" mark in November 2004, even though the hugely successful White Party has been produced by Miami's leading HIV/AIDS organization, Care Resource, since 1986. Government records also show that Centaur filed for the "Gay Days" trademark in November 2004 even though the official Gaydays.com Web site identifies Orlando-based Gay Days, Inc. as the owner of that mark.

The suit seeks a court order canceling Centaur's trademark registration and restraining Centaur from using the Winter Party mark and from doing anything that implies a relationship with the Task Force, plus monetary damages and other relief.

The Task Force is being represented by Joseph F. Nicholson and Michael Kelly at Kenyon & Kenyon LLP, a leading trademark and intellectual property law firm.

A Task Force press release
 

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