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Santa Cruz Suit

[ From: "Santa Cruz Surfing Club dispute may head to court," by Genevieve Bookwalter, San Jose Mercury News, 08/28/2009 ]

SANTA CRUZ -- A lawsuit filed late last year by charter members of the Santa Cruz Surfing Club against another member's grandson over trademark rights of club memorabilia appears headed to trial after attempts to settle have failed.

Attorneys said Thursday they are not at impasse and could continue trying to settle the case. But all parties in the lawsuit "Santa Cruz Surfing Club Preservation Society and Harry Mayo v. Ryan Rittenhouse and Santa Cruz Surfing Club Inc." are scheduled to meet with U.S. District Judge Susan Illston on Sept. 18 in San Francisco to discuss moving it into court.

A trial date is expected to be set then, both sides said.

Settling the case outside court "would be the best thing for everyone involved, but I don't know that that's going to happen," said attorney James Chadwick with the Menlo Park law firm Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, which is representing Rittenhouse.

Attorney Steven J. Johnson, with Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher in Palo Alto, which represents Mayo and the preservation society, said simply: "We haven't been able to reach a settlement."

Both attorneys declined to comment further.

Since it was filed in late December, the lawsuit has shown just how lucrative Surf City memorabilia is perceived to be.

The Santa Cruz Surfing Club was founded in 1936 and included a group of 27 young men. At issue are the rights to club photos collected by Mayo and the club logo, which was first printed on a sweatshirt soon after the club's founding and reprinted on a Levi Strauss T-shirt in 2004.

The lawsuit alleges Rittenhouse, grandson of original club member Robert Rittenhouse Sr., manipulated Mayo, another original club member, into signing over rights to club photos and memorabilia and trademarking them for himself. Rittenhouse is reproducing and selling the images on apparel ranging from T-shirts to women's underwear.

The preservation society, made up of Mayo, other original club members and longtime county surfers, sued for trademark infringement, among other allegations. The group said it wants those rights back -- along with unspecified damages and lost profits and reimbursement of court costs -- so it can promote the history of surfing in Santa Cruz and help raise money for the popular Santa Cruz Surfing Museum on West Cliff Drive, among other causes.

A motion to dismiss the complaint, filed by Rittenhouse's attorney in April, called the situation a lesson that "no good deed goes unpunished." Once the preservation society saw the business Rittenhouse had built, "they wanted it for themselves," it reads.

That motion also said Rittenhouse protected the name and logo -- which had not been trademarked -- from others who did not share the history and relationship with the club that he did.

The motion to dismiss was withdrawn after plaintiffs agreed to amend their complaint, Johnson said. The amendment has not been filed.



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