MILWAUKEE (CN) – Red Lobster is in hot water, and not the kind it cooks with, after being accused for the second year in a row of infringing on a Wisconsin festival’s “Summerfest” trademark.
Milwaukee World Festival Inc. filed a federal lawsuit Monday claiming that Red Lobster’s “Lobster and Shrimp Summerfest” restaurant promotion infringes on the Wisconsin company’s trademark for its annual music festival held on the shores of Lake Michigan.
“This is not the first time that defendant has misappropriated the SUMMERFEST mark to promote its restaurant campaigns: in 2016, defendant engaged in identical behavior by running a promotion it called ‘Lobster and Shrimp Summerfest,” the complaint states. “To protect its intellectual property, Milwaukee World Festival reached out to defendant to demand that it cease and desist infringing the Summerfest mark, and defendant eventually ceased its use of the Summerfest mark and rebranded its promotion to ‘Crabfest,’ without requiring Milwaukee World Festival to resort to litigation.”
Milwaukee World Festival is the owner and producer of Summerfest, the world’s largest music festival that has been held for 11 consecutive days in Milwaukee for the past 49 years, featuring performers like Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder and the Rolling Stones.
The company says it has also held the federally registered “Summerfest” trademark for more than four decades.
This year is the festival’s 50th anniversary, with hundreds of thousands of people attending from June 28 to July 9, according to the lawsuit filed in Milwaukee federal court.
The festival company alleges Red Lobster brought back its “Lobster and Shrimp Summerfest” promotion this year despite numerous requests to not use the trademarked named.
“Milwaukee World Festival has repeatedly reached out to defendant to demand that it cease its infringing activity, but defendant has not only refused to stop using the Summerfest mark, it has also refused to engage in meaningful discussions in order to come to a resolution of this matter,” the lawsuit states.” On information and belief, defendant plans to continue its infringing use of Milwaukee World Festival’s mark throughout the entire period of Summerfest’s 2017 festival.”
The “Summerfest” trademark, number 0940211, has been registered since Aug. 1, 1972, for use in connection with “arranging and conducting an annual summer entertainment festival,” according to the complaint.
“Defendant’s use of the Summerfest Mark in connection with its ‘Lobster and Shrimp Summerfest’ engendered actual confusion, with numerous city officials and business leaders inquiring whether there was an affiliation between plaintiff and defendant,” the lawsuit states.
Milwaukee World Festival says it contacted Red Lobster about its trademark on June 6, just weeks before the festival began. The seafood restaurant chain allegedly responded by denying infringement.
Counsel for Red Lobster allegedly responded to a June 22 letter by saying via email they will reply after an attorney returns to the office on July 5.
“As a result of defendant’s conduct, plaintiff has suffered and will continue to suffer damages … [and] substantial and irreparable harm, including the ability to control the consumer perception of its goods and services, the loss of goodwill and reputation it has established in the SUMMERFEST Mark, and the ability to control the food and beverage vendors with whom it partners,” the complaint states.
Milwaukee World Festival seeks a court declaration that Red Lobster must stop its alleged trademark infringement, including the lobster and shrimp promotional campaign. It is represented by Jessica Polakowski of Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren in Madison, Wis.
Red Lobster did not immediately respond to an email request for comment Wednesday.