Well, there go my plans for this weekend: The original owners of Hard Rock Park, who lost the South Carolina music-themed amusement park as the result of bankruptcy proceedings last September, are suing the people who have rebranded it as Freestyle Music Park for trademark infringement and unfair competition–and the legal proceedings may delay the park’s opening, which is scheduled for Saturday. Competition with what, you may ask, since the original owners seemed pretty much completely unable to keep their version of the family fun zone open for the duration of a summer? I was wondering too!
The claims are an offshoot from the park’s bankruptcy proceedings. Even though FPI MBE purchased the $400 million park out of bankruptcy for $25 million in February, a judge ruled that a company founded by Goodwin and Binkowski – HRP Creative Services Co. – still had at least some intellectual property rights over the park’s overall layout, theme and design.
The disagreement is over the meaning of that ruling. HRP Creative Services says it clearly shows it owns “much more than the license of just names.”
But Blackburn said in a letter that Judge Kevin J. Carey also said such matters are usually determined at a full trial and his decision should not “be taken as a determination of the rights of either party.”
Goodwin had asked FPI MBE for a licensing fee and royalties, and in court filings FPI MBE has said that by rebranding certain portions of the park – it has renamed the themed areas and the rides – it will not be using any trademarks that belong to HRP Creative Services.
HRP Creative Services says FPI MBE is still using its intellectual property because the rides and other attractions at the park retain “highly distinctive and stylized themes and trade dress” that are owned by HRP Creative Services as intellectual property.
HRP Creative Services is trying to market the former names of the attractions and open up stand-alone restaurants, themed areas and even theme parks, according to the court filings.
Specifically, the filings say Binkowski is working with Universal Studios to develop a traveling country ice-skating show that was performed at the park last year and was entitled “Country on the Rocks.” FPI MBE has said it will run a similar show under another name.
“One of the basics of trademark law is use it or lose it,” said Chip Hood, an adjunct professor at the Charleston School of Law who teaches intellectual property courses. “And so they’d need to have some business reason as to why they need this extraordinary … injunction.”
So this… is all over a country-themed ice-skating show, and how nobody can think of a name more original than either “Ice Cold Country” (Freestyle Music Park’s name) or “Country On The Rocks”? Guys, guys. Just come to me for, cough, “branding advice.” I promise to tell at least one of you that you should look beyond country and into the catalog of Seal.
Hard Rock Park creators file suit [The Sun News]