In a federal complaint filed Thursday in Richmond, the authority claims the defendant retailer, Recovered Gold LLC distorted the slogan, which Advertising Age magazine has called "one of the most iconic ad campaigns in the past 50 years," for its own personal financial gain.
Recovered Gold has been using the slogan "Virginia is for gun lovers" on its website and Facebook page and in connection with the sale of various merchandise, the authority says.
“The Commonwealth of Virginia [and this corporation] have expended considerable time, money and effort in the development [of] the Common Law and Registered Marks,” writes Belinda D. Jones, counsel for Virginia Tourism, in the 20-page complaint.
“It is likely that the purchasing public will believe that Recovered Gold’s products are connected, associated or affiliated in some way with the Commonwealth of Virginia and/or VTC, when in fact no such connection, association or affiliation exists,” Jones says.
The complaint alleges Recovered Gold's use of the mark violates federal trademark law as well as a 1972 state law specifically protecting the use of slogans and mottos.
In a Facebook conversation, Andrew Newell, the owner of Recovered Gold, said he had not yet been served the suit but that he was unable to comment at this time.
Newell lists himself on his Linkedin page as a long-time online retailer. His website “www.Virginiaisforgunlovers.com” has been shut down.
A representative of the Virginia Tourism Authority did not respond to a request for comment.
The “Virginia is for Lovers” slogan was first created for the Commonwealth in 1969. The complaint says other vendors have been allowed to use it through licensing agreements, but no such agreement exists with Recovered Gold. The complaint also says cease and desist letters have twice been sent to the defendant, once in February and again in March, but they were ignored.
The authority is seeking injunctive relief, an order requiring Recovered Gold to remove the logo anywhere it has been used, and $1,000-per-day in damages for the duration of the infringing trademark's use.
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