Wine and Jazz Festival sues Winefest over name

New event changing its name in an attempt to settle lawsuit

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

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Vancouver Winefest, a three-day charitable event being held this month in Esther Short Park, has been renamed Vancouver Craft Winefest in an attempt to settle a lawsuit filed by Bravo! Vancouver.

Michael Kissinger, president of Bravo and artistic director of its signature festival, filed a declaration in court saying the Vancouver Winefest was causing too much confusion with his nonprofit organization's annual "Vancouver Wine & Jazz Festival," which started in 1998.

A lawsuit filed in Clark County Superior Court has been moved to U.S. District Court in Tacoma.

"We were very surprised to receive this lawsuit without any warning or communication from Bravo! Vancouver," said Cody Gray, co-owner of Choice Events, the company behind the Vancouver Craft Winefest, which will be June 21-23 in Esther Short Park. The inaugural event will feature wines from 20 local craft wineries and local musicians, and will benefit the Greater Clark County Rotary Foundation.

Bravo's August event in Esther Short Park, meanwhile, features wines from Washington, Oregon, California and abroad, beer, food and "internationally renowned jazz, blues, pop, rock, gospel and other musical artists," according to the lawsuit.

Tim DeJong, a Portland intellectual property rights attorney representing Choice Events, said Monday he notified Bravo's attorney that the name of the event has been changed.

"There is no reason this could not have been resolved in a friendly way," Gray, of Choice Events, said. "From the winemakers and musicians to our great partners and sponsors, this original event has a distinct local identity that reflects our city and our community."

A call to one of Bravo's attorneys, J. Peter Staples, was not immediately returned. Attorney Susan Pitchford was unavailable for comment.

In Kissinger's declaration, he wrote that Choice Events is using the same type of advertising to promote their festival — television and radio, print media, posters, direct mail and social media — as Bravo uses to promote the Vancouver Wine & Jazz Festival.

"Over the past 5 weeks, Bravo has received numerous telephone calls from vendors, exhibitors and the general public who are confused about the 'Vancouver Wine Fest' event," Kissinger wrote. "Some people think Bravo has moved its festival to June; others are concerned that Bravo's festival is not occurring; others are confused about ticket prices, vendor fees, sponsorships; others have commented on the 'lack of quality' with the defendants' event that they believe is Bravo's festival."

If the "Vancouver Wine Fest," goes on, Kissinger wrote, "it will irreparably damage Bravo's festival, as well as its reputation and finances. Defendants are not only infringing on and trading on our name, they are stealing our entire concept, trading on our reputation and brand, and using our nearly 20 years of work for their own financial gain."

Kissinger wrote that the Vancouver Wine & Jazz Festival attracts between 12,000 and 15,000 people annually and has generated an economic impact for the city of Vancouver and local businesses in excess of $9 million.

Plaintiffs have filed for a preliminary injunction, which seeks to make Choice Events stop advertising and soliciting sponsorships for its June festival.

A telephone hearing on that motion has been scheduled for June 10 with U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton.

DeJong said Monday that he believes they would have prevailed on the dispute over the event name, but his clients decided to change the name rather than divert money from Vancouver Craft Winefest's charitable cause.

"Based on the legal filings, Bravo! Vancouver appears to be using this lawsuit as an attempt to shut the craft winefest down completely. There is no question that they have no legal right to do that," DeJong said.

Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or stephanie.rice@columbian.com.