City of Leavenworth Sues Projekt Bayern Over Oktoberfest “Trademark”
The City of Leavenworth is suing Projekt Bayern for trademark infringement on using the name “Leavenworth Oktoberfest.”
Both entities will be meeting at Spokane’s U.S. District Court this Tuesday.
On July 20, 2022, the city filed a lawsuit against the Leavenworth nonprofit Projekt Bayern for allegedly misleading consumers into thinking they were going to the Oktoberfest in Leavenworth.
Currently, there are two Oktoberfest events taking place in Chelan County, one in Leavenworth that is hosted by the Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce, and the other taking place at Town Toyota Center in Wenatchee, which is hosted by Projekt Bayern.
Since 1998, Leavenworth has been hosting Oktoberfest, a German holiday held in October. It lasts for three weekends and is typically a time for food, ale, and Bavarian-styled entertainment.
In 2012, Leavenworth officially contracted with Projekt Bayern to coordinate Oktoberfest activities for the next five years. In 2017, their contract was renewed for an additional five years.
Projekt Bayern agreed to pay the City $50,000 annually for the duration of their contract.
On April 28, 2016, unbeknownst to the city, the nonprofit filed to trademark the term “Leavenworth Oktoberfest” for merchandising.
Problems slowly arose after 2020, when Oktoberfest festivities were halted due to the pandemic.
In 2021, Projekt Bayern asked the city whether Oktoberfest would be happening that year. The city responded saying they would host Oktoberfest if they could do so safely due to the risk of spreading COVID-19.
The city also claims that Projekt Bayern’s version of Oktoberfest was becoming a health and safety concern for local residents.
Shortly afterwards, the city informed Projekt Bayern that they were not going to renew their contract with them.
The city claims that the organizers behind Projekt Bayern began 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 of 2021, the city started looking for a new organizer for Oktoberfest 2022. Two organizers submitted draft proposals: Projekt Bayern and SE Productions, an organizer based in Seattle.
In court records, the city claims that the nonprofit attached a photo of a city dumpster photo captioned with “Not your business” under the question about paid staff members.
On Oct. 7, 2021, the city announced that SE Productions was going to handle Oktoberfest for 2022.
Not long after, Projekt Bayern announced that they were holding the “Leavenworth Oktoberfest” at Town Toyota Center.
On April 27, 2022, Projekt Bayern sent a cease and desist letter to the city and SE Productions, claiming that they have rights to the name “Leavenworth Oktoberfest” and they will press legal action if they continue using a name similar to their trademark.
In response, SE Productions withdrew their proposal, leaving the Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce as the new organizer for the city’s Oktoberfest.
Finally, things came to a head on July 6, 2022, when Projekt Bayern posted the following on their official Facebook page:
“As you all have heard Leavenworth Oktoberfest is now in Wenatchee. The chamber and city in Leavenworth are lying to the visitors. Leavenworth Oktoberfest is owned by Projekt Bayern. The mayor decided to not sign permits and is trying to steal an event the city has never put anything into. This is how Carl is. Never does anything on his own. They are lying to keep hotel rates up. There is no Oktoberfest in leavenworth. I Repeat there is no Oktoberfest in Leavenworth this year. If you are staying in Leavenworth and your hotel has said there is an Oktoberfest they are lying also. They all have been informed that Oktoberfest is in Wenatchee. We will have shuttles from Leavenworth to Wenatchee so people can still stay in Leavenworth. But if they are charging festival rates there is no festival in Leavenworth. Have a great day. I have deleted the complainers that live in leavenworth. This post is to inform visitors what is really happening.”
Overall, the city claims that Projekt Bayern intentionally misled the public into thinking they were organizing the Oktoberfest in Leavenworth by using the name “Leavenworth Oktoberfest,” and that they trademarked that name through false means.
If they win, they ask that Projekt Bayern pay the $50,000 due for the 2021 Oktoberfest and that they no longer use the name “Leavenworth Oktoberfest.”
On Aug. 12, Projekt Bayern filed a counterclaim, arguing that they rightfully own the trademark “Leavenworth Oktoberfest.”
Additionally, they claim that the city violated their own bidding process when contracting with SE Productions and that the city did not request bidding before transferring it to the Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce.
If they win, Projekt Bayern is asking for the city to compensate their legal fees and to pay for any damages incurred from the trademark confusion.
City of Leavenworth Communications Analyst Christie Voos wrote the following:
“The City of Leavenworth has no problem with a business that wants to put on an Oktoberfest event in Wenatchee. Visitors to Leavenworth are drawn to our city’s unique Bavarian charm, and we recognize that some patrons may prefer the different experience the Wenatchee event will offer. But labeling the Wenatchee event ‘Leavenworth Oktoberfest’ virtually guarantees that the public will be confused, and we’ve documented many examples of confusion already. Projekt Bayern Association has known for months that Leavenworth would host an Oktoberfest celebration, and in July the City asked them not to call the Wenatchee event ‘Leavenworth Oktoberfest,’ but they refused. The City then had little choice but to ask the Court to intervene.”
Projekt Bayern’s legal representation declined to comment.