City of Leavenworth sues Projekt Bayern over Oktoberfest ‘branding’

The City of Leavenworth is suing Projekt Bayern for trademark infringement over use of the “Leavenworth Oktoberfest” name.

Both companies will meet this Tuesday in Spokane US District Court.

On July 20, 2022, the city filed a lawsuit against the non-profit project Bavaria at Leavenworth for allegedly misleading consumers into thinking they were going to Leavenworth Oktoberfest.

Two Oktoberfest events are currently being held in Chelan County, one in Leavenworth hosted by the Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce and the other at the Town Toyota Center in Wenatchee hosted by Projekt Bayern.

Since 1998, Leavenworth has hosted Oktoberfest, a German public holiday that takes place in October. It lasts for three weekends and is typically a time for Bavarian-style food, beer and entertainment.

In 2012, Leavenworth officially commissioned Projekt Bayern to coordinate Oktoberfest activities for the next five years. In 2017, her contract was extended for another five years.

Projekt Bayern agreed to pay the city $50,000 annually for the duration of their contract.

On April 28, 2016, without the knowledge of the city, the non-profit organization filed a trademark for the term “Leavenworth Oktoberfest” for merchandise.

After 2020, when Oktoberfest celebrations were halted due to the pandemic, problems began to surface.

In 2021, Projekt Bayern asked the city whether the Oktoberfest would take place this year. The city responded that they would host the Oktoberfest if they could safely do so due to the risk of spreading COVID-19.

The city also claims that Projekt Bayern’s version of Oktoberfest became a health and safety issue for local residents.

Shortly thereafter, the city informed Projekt Bayern that they would not renew the contract with them.

The city claims the organizers behind Projekt Bayern launched a harassment campaign, writing on their Facebook page that the city is run by “stupid, arrogant new people” and that their organization is the “only ones”. [sic] that came [sic] Run this event and make it profitable!”

In June 2021, the city began searching for a new promoter for Oktoberfest 2022. Two promoters submitted design proposals: Projekt Bayern and SE Productions, a promoter based in Seattle.

In court filings, the city alleges that the nonprofit attached a photo of a city dumpster with the caption “Not your business” below the question about paid employees.

On October 7, 2021, the city announced that SE Productions would be handling Oktoberfest for 2022.

Not long after, Projekt Bayern announced that they were hosting the “Leavenworth Oktoberfest” at the Town Toyota Center.

On April 27, 2022, Projekt Bayern sent a cease and desist letter to the city and SE Productions, claiming they had rights to the “Leavenworth Oktoberfest” name and they would take legal action if they continued to use a name similar to their brand.

SE Productions subsequently withdrew its proposal, leaving the Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce as the new organizer of the town’s Oktoberfest.

Finally, things came to a head on July 6, 2022, when Projekt Bayern posted the following on its official Facebook page:

“As you’ve all heard, Leavenworth Oktoberfest is now taking place in Wenatchee. The Chamber and the City of Leavenworth are lying to visitors. Leavenworth Oktoberfest is owned by Projekt Bayern. The mayor has decided not to sign permits and is trying to steal an event the city has never invested in. That’s Carl. Never do anything alone. They lie to keep hotel prices up. There is no Oktoberfest in Leavenworth. I repeat there is no Oktoberfest in Leavenworth this year. If you’re staying in Leavenworth and your hotel says there’s an Oktoberfest, they’re lying too. They have all been informed that Oktoberfest is taking place in Wenatchee. We will have shuttles from Leavenworth to Wenatchee so people can still stay in Leavenworth. But when they charge festival prices, there’s no festival in Leavenworth. Have a great day. I deleted the complainants who live in Leavenworth. This post aims to educate visitors about what is really happening.”

Overall, the city alleges that Projekt Bayern intentionally misled the public into believing that they organized Oktoberfest in Leavenworth by using the name “Leavenworth Oktoberfest” and that they trademarked that name by false means.

If they win, they will demand that Projekt Bayern pay the $50,000 due for Oktoberfest 2021 and stop using the Leaveworth Oktoberfest name.

On August 12, Projekt Bayern filed a counterclaim, arguing that they rightfully own the Leaveworth Oktoberfest brand.

In addition, they allege that the City violated its own bidding process in signing the deal with SE Productions and that the City did not request a bidding process before transferring it to the Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce.

In the event of a victory, Projekt Bayern is demanding that the city reimburse its legal fees and pay any damages resulting from the trademark confusion.

City of Leavenworth Communications Analyst Christie Voos wrote the following:

“The City of Leavenworth has no problem with a company wishing to host an Oktoberfest in Wenatchee. Visitors to Leavenworth are drawn to our town’s unique Bavarian charm, and we recognize that some guests may prefer the different experience that the Wenatchee event will offer. But calling the Wenatchee event “Leavenworth Oktoberfest” practically guarantees that the public will be confused, and we’ve already documented many examples of confusion. The Projekt Bayern association had known for months that Leavenworth would be hosting an Oktoberfest, and in July the city asked them not to call the Wenatchee event “Leavenworth Oktoberfest,” but they declined. The city then had no choice but to ask the court to intervene.”

Projekt Bayern’s legal representation declined to comment.

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