Threatens Legal Action due to Name of Annual Contest
By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Friday, June 18, 2010
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online]
HAMPTON -- The producers of "American Idol" have issued a cease and desist order to organizers of the Hampton Beach Idol competition to stop using their registered trademark.
The Hampton Beach Village Precinct was recently notified by FremantleMedia, which produces the hit Fox television show, to stop using the word "Idol" by June 1, 2010.
"When you get a cease and desist order from 'American Idol,' you cease and desist," said John Kane, marketing director for the precinct.
Kane said they redid all of their promotional fliers at the last minute and renamed the event the Hampton Beach Talent Competition to be in compliance by the deadline.
Amanda H. Chacon, vice president of Business and Legal Affairs for FremantleMedia, sent the precinct the order on May 24.
"While we certainly appreciate the Hampton Beach fan base for 'American Idol,' you should be aware that your use of the word 'Idol' in connection with a talent competition constitutes trademark infringement," wrote Chacon.
The company requested the precinct not only stop using the word "Idol" but also requested they stop distributing fliers or any other materials containing the "Idol" mark.
If the precinct didn't comply, Chacon warned that they could be subject to compensatory and punitive damages.
Kane said he had no idea that using the word "Idol" was in violation of a trademark.
When the precinct created the annual beach event back in 2005 they specifically put on the fliers that it was no way connected or affiliated with "American Idol."
"We thought that covered it," Kane said. "We didn't think the word 'Idol' could be trademarked."
Glen French, the entertainment coordinator of the precinct, said when they contacted the company after receiving the letter they were very cordial and understanding.
"We are not angry about it," French said. "They are just trying to protect their mark and I don't blame them."
French said they are trying to secure a license to use the word 'Idol' for their talent competition.
"If we can't resolve it this year, perhaps next year," French said.
While there are unlicensed "Idol" competitions all over the country, Kane said it appears the Hampton Beach event wasn't hard to find.
Prior to the name change, when you Googled "Idol Competition," Kane said Hampton Beach came in number two out of eight million searches.
"It was 'American Idol' and Simon, then Hampton Beach," Kane said. "So we were kind of noticeable."
The precinct created the competition to attract tourists to the beach in the last two weeks of August, which were often lackluster.
The two-night event was such a hit, it expanded to three nights the next year.
"It's been great entertainment and has been a great draw to the beach," Kane said.
Over the years the competition has attracted not only applicants locally but ones from Canada, Vermont, Pennsylvania and New York.
French said the contest was a twist on the old talent shows they used to hold at the Seashell Stage every Monday night.
"We have been doing talent shows on this beach for about a century," French said. "When I was president of the chamber it was a right of passage. If you were a kid on this beach you had to enter the competition. That was the way it was."
Other than the name, French said the only thing that will be different at this year's show is that the creator of the event, Jack Knox, will not be there.
The master of ceremonies for the event and lead singer of the Continentals died in February.
"Other than that it's going to be the same great entertainment that people expect," French said.
The Hampton Beach Talent Competition kicks off Friday, Aug. 20, at 7 p.m., with the junior semifinalists and will continue Saturday, Aug. 21, at 7 p.m. with the senior semifinalists.
The top 12 in each division, as selected by the judges, will return Sunday, Aug. 22, at 7 p.m., when two new champs in each division will be crowned.