Judge Hears Arguments in Federal Lawsuit Over “Leavenworth Oktoberfest”
A federal judge in Spokane is considering a request by the city of Leavenworth to block nonprofit promoter Projekt Bayern from using the term Leavenworth, or claiming the city is not hosting an Oktoberfest event.
Both sides made presentations in the case Tuesday, with the judge stating that an order would be forthcoming.
Projekt Bayern operated Oktoberfest for 23 years in Leavenworth before the city severed ties with the group.
Both the city and the nonprofit are hosting Oktoberfest events over the same three weekend next month.
The Leavenworth gathering will be staged by the Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce while Projekt Batern's event, known as Leavenworth Oktoberfest, will take place at the Town Toyota Center in Wenatchee.
The two sides submitting written documents as well as oral arguments for Tuesday's hearing.
Porjekt Bayern Association President Cary Sanger submitted a Declaration labeled Exhibit A that included screenshots of the group's website pages advertising Its Leavenworth Oktoberfest taking place in Wenatchee.
Projekt Bayern attorney James Breitenbucher said the group had been consistent in saying its event would be in Wenatchee in order to inform the public of the gathering's exact location.
U.S. District Judge Thomas O. Rice did not specify when his decision in the case would be issued.
Among other things, the city claims Projekt Bayern is falsely advertising that the city is not hosting an Oktoberfest celebration in Leavenworth and that its creating confusion among consumers, leading them to mistakenly blame the city for moving the event to Wenatchee.
The City's argument submitted to the court by Seattle Attorney Robert Carlson points to Facebook postings by Porjekt Bayern. The city cites one in which the organization apologizes for the confusion after hundreds of commenters expressed confusion and anger that Leavenworth Oktoberfest was being “moved” from the Bavarian village.
Another Project Bayern Facebook post cited by the city as being objectionable is quoted as reading, “[t]he chamber and city in Leavenworth are lying to the visitors...[t]hey are lying to keep hotel rates up. There is no Oktoberfest in Leavenworth. I Repeat there is no Oktoberfest in Leavenworth this year.”
The city claims in its written argument that "multiple consumers have communicated to the city that they have changed plans and are no longer planning to visit Leavenworth this year."
The city also claims Projekt Bayern's "conduct has tarnished the city’s reputation with its residents and visitors, and damaged its relationship with service providers the city works with on this event each year."
The city is asking for Projekt Bayern to be blocked from stating the City is not hosting, or does not intend to host its Oktoberfest, and from using the term “Leavenworth” in association with its event in Wenatchee.
The city originally filed its lawsuit in July while the organization filed its response and Counterclaim in August.
In its counterclaim, Projekt Bayern states that it trademarked the term Leavenworth Oktoberfest in July of 2017.
The organization said it has had exclusive use of the term since 1997 and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars building the Leavenworth Oktoberfest brand.
It also noted that it has donated more than $500,000 to the City of Leavenworth, and has been responsible for improvements including the complete restoration of the iconic Front Street Park Gazebo.
The Counterclaim asks for dismissal of the city's lawsuit and a stipulation that Projekt Bayern owns and has trademarked the phrase Leavenworth Oktoberfest.
The Counterclaim also asks for an order forbidding the city from using the phrase unless given permission by Projekt Batern.
In addition, it seeks an award for illegal gains by the city of Leavenworth, and an award for its attorney and court costs.
It further asks for a jury trial if its requests are not met.