Favorable settlement for not-for-profit foundation mandates no financial payout and no adjustment in behavior
MINNEAPOLIS, February 22, 2016—The Red Wing Collectors Society Foundation (RWCS Foundation), the not-for-profit group that operates the Pottery Museum of Red Wing (Minn.), has reached a wholly favorable settlement in its year-long intellectual property dispute with Wells Valley Enterprises Inc., owners of Red Wing Stoneware and Pottery. Under the terms of the settlement, the RWCS Foundation maintains that it has not "infringed any of Wells Valley's claimed trademarks or committed any other wrongdoing…and has further asserted that Wells Valley's claims are wholly without merit." Further, the settlement makes clear that RWCS Foundation may continue to operate without any alteration of its behavior, and will not make any financial payments to Wells Valley.
In a dispute that focused on the city of Red Wing, Minnesota's history as center for the production of American pottery and stoneware, Wells Valley, owner of Red Wing Stoneware and Pottery, filed a trademark infringement suit against RWCS Foundation. Wells Valley alleged that RWCS Foundation's use of marks incorporating the term "Red Wing" and graphical marks similar to those used by Wells Valley in its production of pottery and stoneware, infringed on its intellectual property and caused market confusion.
The Foundation rebuked these claims, maintaining that the term "Red Wing", the "winged logo", and other markings were commonly used to denote pottery once produced in the City of Red Wing, were not the intellectual property of any one entity, and had been used in some form by a number of other Midwestern and Red Wing, Minn.-based pottery and stoneware producers. The RWCS Foundation further maintained that even if Wells Valley had been able to prove ownership of the name and marks in question, the company's previous owners had acquiesced to numerous third-party uses in the past, effectively barring Wells Valley from pursuing these infringement claims.
"We're very pleased that we were able to bring this matter to an appropriate and civil conclusion," said Christopher Larus, Chair of the IP and Technology Litigation Group at Robins Kaplan LLP, who along with colleague Kristine Tietz represented RWCS Foundation pro bono in this matter. "While the protection of intellectual property rights forms the cornerstone of the American economy, RWCS Foundation did absolutely nothing wrong here, an assertion supported by the favorable settlement we were able to negotiate."
"The RWCS Foundation takes immense pride in celebrating the City of Red Wing's long history in pottery production, and we are excited to put this matter in the past and continue to move forward in cooperation with Red Wing's wonderful pottery and stoneware community," said David Hallstrom, President of the Red Wing Collectors Society Foundation. "Our museum is a free-to-the-public, volunteer-based organization, whose mission is to preserve the artifacts of the potteries and to educate the public as to the rich history of the clay industries of Red Wing. To that end, our desire is certainly to work in cooperation, not competition with the city's pottery producers. We are very grateful to Chris Larus, Kristine Tietz and the entire Robins Kaplan firm for the valuable support they have given our Foundation."
The case is Wells Valley Enterprises, Inc., d/b/a Red Wing Stoneware and Pottery v.Red Wing Collectors Society Foundation, d/b/a Pottery Museum of Red Wing. A copy of the settlement agreement is available upon request.
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