The organization that runs the National Cherry Blossom Festival is suing a major paper company for trademark infringement.
In a lawsuit filed in court in D.C., attorneys for the National Cherry Blossom Festival accuse the Florida-based Rifle Paper Company of unlawfully selling merchandise featuring the phrase “National Cherry Blossom Festival” and depictions of the Jefferson Memorial and colorful cherry blossoms.
The National Cherry Blossom Festival, which draws more than 1 million visitors to D.C. during the spring bloom, also organizes an annual parade. The events are a celebration of the gift of blossoms from Japan and, according to the organization’s website, “the enduring friendship between the people of the United States and Japan.”
In court filings, the National Cherry Blossom Festival said Rifle Paper Company posted merchandise featuring the phrase “National Cherry Blossom Festival” on its website in June. According to the court filings, merchandise with the same phrase also was posted for sale at the Paper Source store at Union Market in D.C.
The merchandise appeared on the Paper Source website Wednesday morning.
The National Cherry Blossom Festival trademarked its name in 2009, the organization said in court filings. Attorneys for the organization did not immediately respond to requests for comment, nor did attorneys for the Rifle Paper Company.
In the suit, the National Cherry Blossom Festival asks the court to award financial damages from the sale of the merchandise but does not specify a dollar amount.
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The court filings include a correspondence from an attorney for the Rifle Paper Company. In that correspondence, the paper company argues its merchandise included a “fair use” of the name of the festival.
According to the Rifle Paper Company letter submitted to the court by the National Cherry Blossom Festival, the paper company’s attorney said, “It is difficult for our client to describe the festival without using the entirety of the mark. Moreover, no other terms, symbols or words are used to suggest a sponsorship or endorsement of our client’s work by your client.”
The case has been assigned to a U.S. District Court judge in D.C. No hearing date is yet scheduled.