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Cleveland Zoo sues Pittsburgh Zoo over name 'Asian Lantern Festival'

Yinz can get your own name, says Cleveland Zoo
Asian Lantern Festival Opening Night
Posted at 4:23 PM, Jul 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-08 16:23:15-04

CLEVELAND — Cleveland Metroparks Zoo has filed a lawsuit against the Pittsburgh Zoo over the use of the name "Asian Lantern Festival" for a zoo event.

According to the case filing, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is calling for action against "trademark infringement, unfair competition and false designation of origin" it claims the Pittsburgh Zoo committed by promoting its own inaugural light show scheduled to begin this summer.

Since 2018, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo has hosted a light show in partnership with Tianyu, a business that organizes "beautiful light displays, festivals, and exhibits in zoos, botanical gardens, fairgrounds, and other venues around the world.”

Before the partnership, Tianyu presented its light shows under the name "China Lights," but Cleveland Metroparks Zoo originated the new name for the event specific to zoo, calling it "Asian Lantern Festival," according to court documents.

The lawsuit filed by Cleveland Metroparks Zoo says no other park, zoo or recreational entity in Ohio or in Western Pennsylvania was using the name "Asian Lantern Festival" before 2018, when it was introduced in Cleveland.

The lawsuit also alleges that staff from the Pittsburgh Zoo came to Cleveland Metroparks Zoo's Asian Lantern Festival in 2020 to see if their zoo should host a light show of its own. The Pittsburgh Zoo then entered into a contract with Tianyu to present a light show in 2021.

The Pittsburgh Zoo's light festival has been advertised as the "Asian Lantern Festival," despite Cleveland Metroparks Zoo not authorizing the use of the name.

When Cleveland Metroparks Zoo attempted to contact the Pittsburgh Zoo and request its event be re-branded, the Pittsburgh Zoo did not reply, the lawsuit alleges. Cleveland Metroparks Zoo then sent a cease-and-desist letter to the Pittsburgh Zoo and received a response that the event would continue being branded as the "Asian Lantern Festival" and that the zoo would "consider re-naming next year's event but made no guarantee."

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is claiming that Pittsburgh Zoo's adoption and use of "Asian Lantern Festival" is likely to cause confusion and make customers believe that the Pittsburgh Zoo's light show has been "authorized, sponsored, approved, endorsed or licensed" by Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.

The lawsuit claims the "Asian Lantern Festival" mark is protectable because it "because it is suggestive, and, even if it is considered descriptive, it has acquired a secondary meaning" and because the zoos are competing in the same geographical region, the use of the mark by Pittsburgh Zoo may generate confusion among consumers.

In the lawsuit, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is seeking an injunction that would prohibit the Pittsburgh Zoo from using "Asian Lantern Festival" for their light show and issue corrective advertising in regards to the light show.

The lawsuit was filed on July 2 and a summons against Pittsburgh Zoo was filed on Thursday. The Pittsburgh Zoo is scheduled to host its light festival in August.

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