Leavenworth town sues Projekt Bayern over Oktoberfest ‘brand’
The town of Leavenworth is suing Projekt Bayern for trademark infringement using the name “Leavenworth Oktoberfest”.
The two entities will meet in U.S. District Court in Spokane on Tuesday.
On July 20, 2022, the city filed a lawsuit against nonprofit Leavenworth Projekt Bayern for allegedly misleading consumers into thinking they were going to Oktoberfest in Leavenworth.
Currently, two Oktoberfest events are taking place 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 festival held in October. It lasts three weekends and is usually a time for Bavarian-style food, beer and entertainment.
In 2012, Leavenworth officially contracted Projekt Bayern to coordinate Oktoberfest activities for the next five years. In 2017, their contract was renewed for another five years.
Projekt Bayern agreed to pay City $50,000 per year for the duration of their contract.
On April 28, 2016, unbeknownst to the city, the non-profit organization trademarked the term “Leavenworth Oktoberfest” for merchandising.
Problems slowly emerged after 2020, when Oktoberfest festivities were halted due to the pandemic.
In 2021, Projekt Bayern asked the city if Oktoberfest would take place that year. The city responded by saying it would host Oktoberfest if it was safe to do so due to the risk of spreading COVID-19.
The city also says Projekt Bayern’s version of Oktoberfest was becoming a health and safety issue for local residents.
Shortly after, City informed Projekt Bayern that they were not going to renew their contract with them.
The city claims that the organizers of Projekt Bayern have launched a campaign of harassment, writing on their Facebook page that the city is run by “stupid and arrogant new people” and that their organization is the “only [sic] it came [sic] Organize this event and make it profitable!
In June 2021, the city began looking for a new organizer for Oktoberfest 2022. Two organizers submitted draft proposals: Projekt Bayern and Seattle-based organizer SE Productions.
In court filings, the city says the nonprofit attached a photo of a photo of the city’s dumpster captioned “Not your business” under the question about paid staff members.
On October 7, 2021, the city announced that SE Productions would manage Oktoberfest for 2022.
Shortly 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 have rights to the name “Leavenworth Oktoberfest” and will take legal action if they do so. they continue to use a similar name to their brand.
In response, SE Productions withdrew its proposal, leaving the Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce as the new organizer of the town’s Oktoberfest.
Eventually, things came to a head on July 6, 2022, when Projekt Bayern posted the following on their official Facebook page:
“As you’ve all heard, Leavenworth Oktoberfest is now in Wenatchee. The chamber and the town of Leavenworth are lying to visitors. Leavenworth Oktoberfest is owned by Projekt Bayern. The mayor has decided not to sign a permit and is trying to steal an event that the town has never invested in. That’s how Carl is. Never does anything on his own. They lie to keep hotel prices down. There’s no Oktoberfest in Leavenworth. I repeat that ‘there is no Oktoberfest in Leavenworth this year. If you are staying in Leavenworth and your hotel said there was an Oktoberfest they are also lying. They have all been told Oktoberfest is in Wenatchee We will have shuttles from Leavenworth to Wenatchee so people can still stay in Leavenworth But if they charge festival rates there is no festival in Leavenworth Have a great day I removed the plaintiffs who live in Leavenworth. This message is intended to inform visitors of what is really going on.
Overall, the city claims that Projekt Bayern intentionally misled the public into believing that it was hosting Oktoberfest in Leavenworth using the name “Leavenworth Oktoberfest”, and that it trademarked that name by false means.
If they win, they’re asking Projekt Bayern to pay the $50,000 owed for Oktoberfest 2021 and stop using the “Leavenworth Oktoberfest” name.
On August 12, Projekt Bayern filed a counterclaim, arguing that they rightfully own the “Leavenworth Oktoberfest” trademark.
Additionally, they claim that the city violated its own bidding process when entering into a contract with SE Productions and that the city did not request a bidding before handing it over to the Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce.
If they win, Projekt Bayern asks the city to compensate their legal costs and pay the damages resulting from the confusion of trademarks.
Town of Leavenworth communications analyst Christie Voos wrote the following:
“The Town of Leavenworth has no problem with a business wanting to hold an Oktoberfest event in Wenatchee. Visitors to Leavenworth are drawn to the unique Bavarian charm of our town, and we recognize that some guests may prefer the different experience that The Wenatchee event will offer. But labeling the Wenatchee event “Leavenworth Oktoberfest” virtually guarantees that the public will be confused, and we have already documented many instances of confusion. The Projekt Bayern association has known for months that Leavenworth would hold a celebration of Oktoberfest, and in July the city asked them not to call the Wenatchee event “Leavenworth Oktoberfest”, but they refused.The City then had no choice but to ask the Court to ‘to intervene.
Projekt Bayern’s legal representation declined to comment.