South By Southwest Music Festival Sues Austin Area Promoter For Trademark Infringement

By Joseph Mandour on November 22, 2011

concert-thumb-200x132-29725 San Diego – Each year Austin, Texas is home to one of the country’s most popular music festivals, South By Southwest (SXSW).

The festival takes place in downtown Austin and is concentrated in the Convention Center. Each year, the festival features hundreds of musical acts and has grown to include a film festival and interactive conference. To advertise and promote the festival, SXSW has obtained trademark registration for several logos and other trademarks.

SXSW recently filed an action in federal district court in the Western District of Texas alleging that concert promoter Joseph Gingerella doing business as Black Ice Booking infringed trademarks owned by SXSW. SXSW claims that Gingerella had booked and promoted concerts directly coinciding with the South By Southwest Festival. SXSW also claims that Gingerella has held “battle of the bands” type competitions to compete for a booking in Austin during the festival. SXSW claims that naming these competitions, “Road to South By” and advertising that the winner will play a show “sponsored, sanctioned, and produced” by SXSW constitutes trademark infringement.

Simply booking a concert during the musical festival at an Austin area venue would not constitute trademark infringement. However, advertising that the event was indeed sponsored, sanctioned by, or produced by the festival in an attempt to piggyback on the festival’s reputation could amount to trademark infringement. SXSW is seeking actual damages, treble damages, and an injunction prohibiting Gingerella from continued infringement of the SXSW trademark. SXSW also seeks $2 million in statutory damages and attorney’s fees.

Gingerella issued a statement denying the trademark infringement and claiming that while he has put on concerts during the music festival at Austin area clubs, he did not advertise that the concerts were sponsored by SXSW. Gingerella also claimed that his events were free and that he does not profit from his concerts scheduled during SXSW.

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