Thieneman Sues U of L Over Trademark

What seemed like a simple change involving the Mint Jubilee Derby Eve gala has devolved into a legal battle pitting the event’s co-founders against the University of Louisville.

Today Chris Thieneman is filing a federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court charging the U of L Foundation and the Brown Cancer Center with federal trademark infringement, tortious interference with prospective business relations, and unfair competition.

It all seemed simple enough. Thieneman, owner of the Mint Jubilee trademark and co-founder of the 13-year-old Derby Eve gala, decided he didn’t want the University of Louisville’s Brown Cancer Center to be the designated charity for the event after a five-year licensing contract expired.

As we’ve reported, he sent U of L a letter asking it to sign off on allowing the licensing agreement to expire, since the agreement with the school didn’t end until just before next year’s event. U of L officials said, sure they’d sign it.

Thieneman wants next year’s event to benefit a charity operated by Norton Healthcare, which has a strained relationship with U of L thanks to a dispute over brain surgeons. But it also treats a lot of cancer patients, and it’s important to the Mint Jubilee co-founders (Chris, his brother Tom Thieneman and Hollywood producer Matt Battaglia) that the gala make money for cancer treatment.

Read the Rest After the Jump….

Now U of L is refusing to sign the agreement and, according to Thieneman, refusing to answer calls about the issue after it got a letter from a California legal entity retained by Battaglia specializing in trademark law. The law firm’s letter asked U of L to respond by today, May 22.

U of L, meanwhile, has continued to market and organize for its Julep Ball, the name it came up with to replace the event. U of L’s marketing materials, including a website, continues to include wording that’s objectionable to the founders, including the phrase “formerly the Mint Jubilee Gala” and several photos and references to the 2009 event as the Julep Ball.

On the night of this year’s Mint Jubilee, according to the lawsuit, a U of L representative announced that “as of tonight, The Mint Jubilee would no longer exist.”

Thieneman says the school is also using the Mint Jubilee trademark to secure long-term sponsors for its new event, and in the lawsuit claims the Julep Ball trademark that U of L is using is “likely to continue to cause confusion, mistakes and deception….”

The lawsuit asks for punitive damages and that the court prevent U of L from using the “Julep Ball” trademark or any similar name.

The U of L Committee has already met to get organized for the 2010 Julep Ball. It has a signed agreement with its primary sponsor, Southern Wine & Spirits, and presumably others.

Meanwhile, Lynnie Meyer, chief development officer of Norton’s Children’s Hospital Foundation, says her organization would love to jump in and help organize the 2010 Mint Jubilee — as soon as this business with U of L is settled.

The courts, however, are likely to intervene, which could put both evens in jeopardy, and cost both U of L and Thieneman a bundle in legal fees. Thieneman said today that he would prefer that money go toward a charitable cause rather than fighting the school over the trademark.

U of L spokesman Mark Hebert released this statement from U of L: “Now that this matter is tied up int he courts, the University of Louisville will have no comment other than through its attorneys.”

26 thoughts on “Thieneman Sues U of L Over Trademark

  1. The friggin’ contract with U of L was going to expire next year. What the hell are they fighting it for?

    In the words of Red Forman, a great American, “dumbasses”.

  2. We’re not talking about a very substantive trademark here — it’s not like it’s a highly profitable for-profit business. It’s a trademark for a friggin’ charity event.

    It appears to me that Thieneman is just looking for a fight, and acting overly litigious is how he’s doing it.

    And cancer patients will suffer.

  3. How is Thieneman suing U of L in Federal Court bad P.R. for U of L?

    It looks to me like U of L is the one spending it’s time trying to keep it’s CHARITY event going. Chris is spending all of his time litigating. He did a my-way-or-the-highway play complete with lawyers before the original agreement had even expired. Yes, U of L is now lawyered up, because Chris started sending stuff from his legal team. U of L has no choice at this point.

    Now a lot of time and money will be wasted on legal action that has NOTHING to do with what all of this is supposed to be about: raising money for worthwhile causes.

  4. How’s about checking into all the expenses that UofL incurs on outside legal services? It might be a bit overwhelming to see where the money goes.

  5. Steve

    Obviously, those of you who have made comments are not up to date on this matter. I really don’t see this as a political matter. I have followed this story only because I have experience and a passion for charity work and a passion for those who devote their time , contributions, and much more for a cause, I have family and friends who all suffer from this terrible disease. I am especially thankful for the Mint Jubilee and the Thienemans for establishing a goal that has been a great resource for my family and many who have suffered or who benefit from cancer research regardless of the fancy name in front of “…Cancer Research” There are many of those charities who all have the same goal and mission…to help raise funds to find a cure for all cancer victims. So what if there are more than one entitiy who want to contribute to the research. I am not originally from Louisville so I must confess, I do not see the hype or “bleed red fury” for U of L for every matter that exist in this community. Just because it’s U of L in the matter, everyone seems to defend them. It is OBVIOUS that U of L needs this mark to use as a marketing stradegy rather than a contribution. If that were not true then they wouldn’t care and not contest the desire for the MJ to continue to carry on a tradition. I am shamed by the organization, their actions, and lack of profressionalism for a charitable cause.

  6. If you’re truly interested in supporting cancer research, etc. just send your money directly to the American Cancer Society or LIVESTRONG and move on. Nothing to see here…

  7. If a lawsuit is necessary to solve the matter, then so be it. Yes, it’s a shame that U of L is wasting thousands of dollars on a lawsuit that could be contributed to the cause at hand. If I were a bettin man in Vegas, my money would be on the Theinemans. From what I’ve seen posted, they have every right to protect their mark of the Mint Jubilee and it’s cause. Let the games begin, Gentlemen..and may the best man win! I’ll be anxious to see the outcome of this one.

  8. Betsy, I am not defending UofL because they’re UofL, or even because they’re technically legally correct — they may not even be that.

    It’s this…

    Thieneman is making a mountain out of an anthill. Again, this “trademark” is of minimal value, and even if “violated” by UofL, what’s the problem? You get two charity events that help cancer patients.

    I don’t blame UofL for wanting to sucker off the Mint Jubilee, as they were involved with it, and that makes their name conversion marketing not unpalatable to those of us with common sense.

    The bottom line is that Thieneman doesn’t like to be slighted and is taking it out in the courts…actual charitable work be damned. Where is Thieneman’s charity towards UofL, an entity that obviously has to scramble for their next year’s event?

    On top of all that, I wonder if there is some kind of back story, where all this is about Thieneman trying to treat UofL in a punitive manner over the brain surgeon controversy. This in favor of Norton, as far as I’m concerned a crooked organization that treats its employees like shit, as evidenced with recent revelations of the extremely wicked behavior by their management while nurses were trying to organize a union.

  9. To me, this sounds like a jealousy issue. Obviously U of L is threatened by the fact that a competitior (Nortons) may now rain on their parade and be the new beneficiary of this event. They should save their face now by severing the ties with the Mint Jubilee and allow the Theinemans to continue with their own tradition.

  10. The only benefit to each entity, whether Norton or UofL, is prestige. And each has a right to pursue that. And certainly, UofL has a right to establish its own event, since the Mint Jubilee was snatched from them. If Thieneman hadn’t turned this into a legal mess, UofL wouldn’t have had to dig its legal heels in.

  11. If the Thieneman’s want to protect their turf and stand up for what they believe in, then let them do so. I would bet that if you owned a home and raised your children there for several years, then rented out that home for a short 5 year term to allow another profit bearing entity to use it for their charity, and then wanted to have your child’s wedding or special engagement there at the end the 5 year term, however you learn that not only do you no longer have the right to your own home to have a party, but that the entire property has been stolen away, and “will no longer exist” well then you would probably feel just as the Thienemans now feel…robbed and violated. Would you let them walk away with your property and everything you built or would you do what you feel was in your heart to defend and keep the tradition living and growing to continue to help the lives of others.

  12. What kind of crack are all of you Thieneman supporters on?

    How is UofL violating their trademark? They have renamed their event the JULEP BALL. The Thienemans do NOT own exclusive rights to the word julep, so get over it. They have not been robbed. Their house has not been taken from them. Quit whining. They can still have their MINT JUBILEE.

    Also I honestly question whether some of these passionate random supporters of the Thienemans aren’t family members themselves.

  13. I can assure you, in the realm of “crooked organizations that treat their employees like shit,”
    U of L has Norton beat hands down. At least the recent union-busting/intimidation at Norton found its way into the New York Times.
    The abusive treatment meted out to select U of L employees may never see the light of day.

  14. Marie, if what you say is true, there are many venues, such as this one, where you can get that story out, hopefully with really good details.

    Again, I’m not trying to help UofL in any way. I just think this is largely a non-matter blown up sky high for little purpose.

  15. Steve,

    I told my story over on pageone…but for all of U of L’s histrionics on this issue, and everything they’re involved in, if it was simply a matter of doing good (i.e. funding a charity), they would simply sign, or to recall their tantrum surrounding the neurosurgeons (firing them before finding replacements thereby jeopardizing the trauma center and U of L’s own neuroscience department) you see their childish (even reckless) bad behavior is the norm.
    The University of Louisville gets away with a lot.
    They fabricated a performance review and wrecked my work history. There’s no recourse that I know of; you’re left with a (eight year) gap in your resume that you can’t explain.
    There is no oversight and no accountability…some great people here and there…but, unfortunately, the ones at the top are bullies.

  16. That should be said about a lot of the people in this town regarding them being bullies. I was did some pretty bad ways in my last job and being a liar is more important to these people than telling the truth. It works that way in a lot of jobs around here and its no wonder we are becoming considerably poorer.

    Immaturity and incompetence seems to be the norm around here with a lot of the business community and I have seen a lot of childishness going on. Its a shame that some of these people don’t really end up getting fired since it is obvious that a great many of them get their jobs through politics.

    I’ve seen your issue Marie with these people and its a culture of corruption which is why this town is on the way down. Its not going to be much longer and most people are going to end up in the same boat. Its just a matter of time and this economy worsening.

  17. You nailed it, Chuck.

    I don’t know if it’s something in the water or, having resided in Louisville now for over a decade, whether it’s become a national trend, but I did a brief stint at an “automobile club” just prior to going to work at U of L. My experience there was similar in that I was told I lacked skills that I’d had for years (using the fax machine, when it was a daily task at my previous job, etc.). I thought it was young, inexperienced managers just making things up.
    But it never had anything behind it or became personal a la U of L. Why they have to call into question your previous work history, sabotage your career and damage your health, too, is beyond me. There’s really something at work there.

  18. I totally agree with you Marie regarding the cultural stupidity that seems to increasingly permeate the workplace. Your best bet if you can is to start weighing your options and seeing if there is another area of the US you could move to and find the funds to start over. Louisville just doesn’t get it. Its more important around here to have contacts than actually have competence, education, and real world job skills. Its all about who you are and how much you can lie. Its something in the water and in the culture you can lie and somehow feel ok about it.

    I’ve also lived in this area for quite some time with stints in the Chicago area, Indianapolis area, Cincinnati area, and across the Midwest. People think they are progressive here but their version of progress is to find a outhouse just next to whatever crapped out vehicle has been left. I’ve never seen a place where vehicles were left abandoned by the major interstates such as the Snyder. I counted 6 cars on the way home the other night and no orange tags, no tow tags, etc. It must be dumping season.

    People have a major cultural and competence issue in this area. That’s why I know that I am looking to leave and a very well educated friend with engineering skills and education is working on have to go elsewhere. I’m a 4 year graduate with very little luck here in finding decent workable employment despite very good writing skills, people skills, and competence. To all the naysayers on this board, perhaps getting an education and some common sense before smarting off would be a good start. That and to have lived somewhere else than Louisville.

    It seems that your problems are much the same as mine that having a good work history is for naught if you get screwed around in the local good old boy system. Its a system where everyone knows everyone else because of a great deal of backscratching and cultural nepotism. People that live it daily have no idea what we are talking about.

    I see it daily just in talking to people about issues, its like they lack the ability to see through the lies and propaganda that people tell them. It reminds me a lot of the old system of slavery where they told the plantation workers that they would be fed and taken care of but you would have to sell your soul for a bowl of rice or corn.

    It seems to this writer that many of the institutions and businesses of this town have major corruption issues based on the fact that they have many scandals to cover up. U of L is constantly covering up for their brass. It doesn’t matter how many bad decisions and corrupt practices these people are involved in, they still keep their jobs. Its based on the who you know culture that permeates this region. Its a vendetta based society where if you get on someones wrong side you can expect them trying to stick it to you. And these people will lie and cover things up and lie some more. Even to the unemployment people and the state just to make sure they don’t have to pay benefits. I’m going to fight them to the bitter end and if I have to see people get their privileges revoked, I will do so. Remember Kentucky, not all of us are going to lay down and let you walk over us.

    Regarding their damage to your career, work history, and your health its a sad commentary that you will have a hard time getting justice for it. Unless you can find out what they are saying about you and finding ways through the law to hold these clowns accountable. Which means getting a lawyer not involved with their nonsense and someone behind the scenes at the U OF L. I’ve noticed that U of L seems to like to hire people who lack competence. I know a couple of people who work there and I have to wonder how they got their jobs.

    Frankly speaking, I think that your best option is as mine to create your own life somewhere else where they value your skills and find a way to manufacture a future based as much as you can on your own choosing. Doing things their way around here is not profitable because eventually they will find a way to screw someone over. Its in their culture you know. Just like the whole Eastern KY mentality, its our culture ya know. I wish you the best in your future career pursuits and finding and creating the life you wish.

  19. Thank you, Chuck.

    I have made a major career change that I don’t even want to divulge here…and I’ve moved into that “new world” but I’m having difficulties getting my certification because of the still prevalent demons.
    An actual move away from Louisville sounds like a good idea….lately I run into “the knuckleheads”
    almost once a week and that’s really depressing.

    As to L’ville being vendetta-based; I’ve lived on both coasts, the Midwest, and outside the U.S., and I’ve never seen anything that remotely approaches this university’s climate. I’ve worked for employers of different nationalities and backgrounds, and U of L trumps them all when it comes to violating basic rights.
    People should be fired for such things.

    But best wishes for a big, grand life beyond Lou-evil. And I saw those abandoned cars, too…

  20. I agree Marie and I’ve been a lot of other places and I’ve never saw the cultural nepotism and general hateful behavior that you get from so many around here. I would actually expect something like that in certain areas of the US. But I always found that some of my best friends were from places other than Southern Indiana and Kentucky. Why that was, I do not know but even as much as one tries to become part of the local culture and be friendly as all should try to do, it doesn’t exactly work out. In fact, I’ve been asked by so many here what high school I went to and I didn’t go to high school here so that already puts me out of the loop.

    Its funny because my wife grew up in the Cincinnati area and moved here at the age of 10. She was talking about our church one day and about trying to make friends and I have to admit I told her that no matter what you do with some people to make friends or at least bring up small talk, they have nothing to contribute back except to act disinterested etc. I find that goes on a lot around Louisville. Not as much hospitality as what they like to talk about here. I find people in Mississippi, Tennessee, and other southern states to be more hospitable.

    I’ve noticed among a lot of these people a great deal of pretentiousness and fakery. For some reason, it is difficult to get honesty out of people around here. Obviously I am not the only one that sees this. Recently I was in a local retail store talking to one of the clerks who was working full time and going to school full time and he was mentioning that people around here are crazy. I couldn’t really dissuade him from thinking that because he had lived here 8 months and saw a lot of stuff from as was explained to me in our 20 minute conversation as crazy. Anyone with a sane mind would have been struck by a couple these events as being done by crazy people.

    I’ve been across the northern states and Midwest and places East and West of here. I’ve had a great deal of life experience for someone in their 30s but I’ve never seen the mass amount of irrational behavior that is exhibited here in Louisvllle. Not all people here are scum or bad elements but its seems there is a culture of people here probably half or more that are either neurotic or something funny has been put in their water. They just don’t think clearly and if you watch what they do you will have to wonder what the hell these people are thinking. What I mean, is that there is no method to their madness. No real reasoning or common sense behavior behind it. It doesn’t make sense when people act the way they do.

    I’ve seen women run out on their husbands multiple times only to return and try to have a committed relationship and to run out again having another affair meanwhile leaving her kids alone with the father.

    The whole car drop off program of leaving cars beside the road all over the place is another real travesty and why these people are not fined, I am not sure but its ridiculous to not at least get it towed. I find that very insane that the city is letting things become run down. The apartment complex where I live has become someones car evacuation center.

    The insanity in the workplace its amazing. People not ordering the correct parts and then wondering why people stand around all day. No real sense of direction there. The lies are what gets me. Why do you have to lie to everyone you come across about nearly everything. I guess what amazes me is the high school mentality that exists in workplaces around here while the people that act professional and do their jobs end up getting on some list or punished for doing the right thing. Its the whole cultural hypocrisy of it all to talk about Kentuckians being some sort of moral and religious people all the while there is more cheating, lies, theft, etc. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. And before this I’ve lived places that had crime for sure so I can see that.

    This place proves that morality and religion is a very hypocritical and selective thing even to the point that pastors here are being found to be crooks. Thats a very sad day when that happens.

  21. Yes, my friends are septuagenarians, horses, and dogs. No games or cruel tricks. Even if you get stepped on, it’s not personal.
    And when the jokers get me down, I’m trying to remember there is a whole world out there.
    For starters there’s books, music, movies…
    the older (sometimes) the better (?)

  22. Very interesting Marie! Agreed with septuagenarians, horses, and dogs. I enjoy talking to people in their 70s and 80s just seems to me more common decency. The jokers eventually find ways to weed themselves out and pretty much eventually end up no better than anyone else.

    Books, music, and movies are a good way to do that I agree. Between Half Price and some of the other decent cultural stuff I enjoy, I would probably end up going crazy here. Haha.

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