The founders behind CookieCon commenced a lawsuit against the organizers of LA Cookie Con & Sweets Show! claiming the competitor is infringing its federally registered trademark. CookieCon has been a series of hosted 3-day conventions in Salt Lake City since 2012. It is expanding to Indianapolis in the coming year and with plans to host other conventions round the country. The competitor hosted its own event in California using a similar name, allegedly trading off of the reputation and good will created by the original CookieCon organizers. The complaint alleges that the competitor’s name is confusingly similar and the relevant customers overlap: “similarly to plaintiffs’ convention, the advertising of LA Cookie Con is especially targeted at the community of bakers and cookie decorators, as well as members of the general public that are interested in baking and decorating.” Additionally, the organizers have shortened the name to “LA Cookie Con” in its promotions, adopted the domain name lacookiecon.com, their Facebook page is facebook.com/lacookiecon/, their Twitter profile is @lacookiecon and their Instagram profile is @lacookiecon.“ This use has created actual confusion among consumers…The defendants willfully use the CookieCon mark (or confusingly similar variants) and colors to suggest, mislead and confuse consumers into believing that LA Cookie Con is associated with CookieCon.”
Further, the complaint alleges CookieCon’s good name has been damages because the copycat California event “has been widely criticized for its lack of organization and unprofessional conduct.” The organizers of the California event have allegedly oversold tickets, so not all attendees who bought a ticket could actually gain entry, and have then refused to give refunds to those paying customers.
This case provides some important lessons for brewfest event organizers:
- As tempting as it is to use a name that is already recognized by the public, don’t use it or you risk infringement claims.
- If you are investing a significant amount of time and money in creating an event, it is a good idea to do a trademark clearance search before you finalize your name and begin promotional activities. Rebranding is expensive and risks loss of market momentum.
- If you plan on doing the event more than once, or it is a big revenue generator, it is a good idea to federally register a trademark to prevent copycats from stealing your market share or damaging your reputation if they don’t put on a quality event or offer a quality product.
- Registering a mark allows you to control, and generate revenue from, businesses seeking to capitalize on your event with promotional products and services and other money making opportunities. Registering a mark ensures you share in that revenue through licensing and sponsorship deals.
The case is Karen’s Cookies LLC and CookieCon LLC v. Annatainment et al., case number 2:18-cv-00204, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah.