City sues pair who thought of Light City

BOPA says cou­ple falsely claim own­er­ship rights in in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Chris Kal­tenbach chris.kal­tenbach@balt­ twit­ chriskalt­sun

The Bal­ti­more agency that put on this past spring’s first Light City Bal­ti­more fes­ti­val has sued the cou­ple that came up with the idea, and is ask­ing a court to rule that the name, lo­gos, de­signs and other el­e­ments as­so­ci­ated with the fes­ti­val be­long to the city.

The suit, filed Wed­nes­day in U.S. District Court, asks that the court re­strict Brooke and Justin Allen, a mar­ried cou­ple, from us­ing Light City de­sign el­e­ments in a way that sug­gests they own them, or any as­so­ci­ated in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty. It also asks that the Al­lens, whose creative agency is called What Works Stu­dios, re­frain from “falsely rep­re­sent­ing” that they are con­nected with the Bal­ti­more Of­fice of Pro­mo­tion & the Arts, which spon­sored the seven-day fes­ti­val.

The court fil­ing says that af­ter the city de­clined to dis­cuss giv­ing the Al­lens an own­er­ship stake in the fes­ti­val, the cou­ple agreed in­stead to be listed as a ma­jor cor­po­rate spon­sor. The Al­lens signed a con­tract ac­knowl­edg­ing that the city would re­tain own­er­ship rights to the fes­ti­val’s in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty, ac­cord­ing to the suit.

How­ever, the suit al­leges, the Al­lens and What Works Stu­dios “have re­peat­edly claimed that they ... own the Light City Marks” and that the city has no “own­er­ship in­ter­est or right in the Light City Marks.”

In a writ­ten state­ment, BOPA Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Bill Gil­more said ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Al­lens have been go­ing on for “months.” He de­clined to dis­cuss specifics of the case or to ex­pand on his state­ment.

Be­yond ask­ing that the court de­ter­mine own­er­ship of the de­sign el­e­ments and in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty, the suit asks com­pen­satory and puni­tive dam­ages “to be de­ter­mined at trial.” No court date has been set.

Justin Allen said Thurs­day he had not seen the suit and that he was re­luc­tant to go into any de­tail con­cern­ing the dis­pute.

“I’m not sur­prised to be at­tacked by BOPA in this way,” he said, “af­ter they didn’t hold up their end of the deal.” He de­clined to elab­o­rate, but said he looked for­ward to a trial, when “jus­tice will be served.”

The court fil­ing ac­knowl­edges that own­er­ship of the Light City marks and in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty is in dis­pute. BOPAhas­ap­plied for trade­mark pro­tec­tion but is still await­ing a fi­nal de­ter­mi­na­tion. The fil­ing also con­tends that the Al­lens, who were paid “in ex­cess of $170,000” un­der a con­tract with the city, were sup­posed to book speak­ers for Light City U, an in­no­va­tion con­fer­ence held dur­ing the fes­ti­val. They failed to do so, ac­cord­ing to the court doc­u­ments, “thereby jeop­ar­diz­ing the con­fer­ence por­tion of the fes­ti­val and the over­all suc­cess of the fes­ti­val.”

Held from March 28 through April 3, the pri­vately fi­nanced Light City Bal­ti­more fea­tured dozens of il­lu­mi­nated art in­stal­la­tions, as well as food and en­ter­tain­ment. Mod­eled af­ter Aus­tralia’s an­nual Vivid Syd­ney fes­ti­val, or­ga­niz­ers en­vi­sion it be­com­ing an an­nual event that will at­tract tourists from around the world. The first fes­ti­val at­tracted an es­ti­mated 400,000 vis­i­tors, ac­cord­ing to BOPA. It also lost about $400,000, ac­cord­ing to the court fil­ing. Gil­more said that money would be made up for through fu­ture Light City fes­ti­vals.

Next year’s Light City Bal­ti­more is set for March 31-April 8.

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