Sept. 12, 2006 – If the V.I. Carnival Committee is successful with its application to trademark the names "Virgin Islands Carnival," "St. Thomas Carnival" and "V.I. Carnival," it may turn out that no one else will be able to use those names for events or for merchandise, such as the ubiquitous Carnival T-shirts.
When St. Thomas resident Alma Francis Heyliger — who was doing research in order to submit a bid to manage St. Thomas’ Carnival — discovered that the trademark application was in the works, she put her computer skills to use by searching the U.S. Patent and Trademarks Office Web site.
The V.I. Carnival Committee applied for all three trademarks on Dec. 7, 2004, using a Washington, D.C., attorney.
Heyliger said the word "Carnival" is part of the territory’s culture and that to give the Carnival Committee the sole right to the three phrases just isn’t right.
The three applications all contain the descriptive phrase "Entertainment and cultural activities, namely, entertainment in the nature of live band performances and cultural festivals; competitions, namely, live band competitions and beauty pageants; production, namely, audio and video recording production and radio entertainment production; arranging ticket reservations for shows and other carnival-related entertainment events."
The applications also contain the words " retail store services featuring clothing and souvenirs."
Carnival Committee Chairman Caswil Callender said Tuesday that the committee planned to trademark the names for at least 15 years. "We were sidetracked," he said.
He said the 2004 trademark applications had nothing to do with the flap raised in the Legislature when the Carnival Committee refused to open its books.
"We thought it was the right thing to do," Callender said of the trademark applications.
The latest chapter in the ongoing feud between the Carnival Committee and the government unfolded recently when the Tourism Department announced it was putting operation of Carnival celebrations on St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John out for bid. Organizations have until Sept. 19 to submit their proposals.
Callender said he didn’t know if the Carnival Committee would submit a bid. "We don’t see why we need to put in a bid," he said.
While Callender claimed previously that the Carnival Committee ran the event since its inception in 1952, Heyliger said that the committee only began in 1976.
Callender added that he’s sure an audit of the Carnival Committee by the V.I. Inspector General’s office won’t turn up any problems.
"This will show people that we are a group of people with integrity and honesty," he said, adding that the Carnival Committee plans to take the Tourism Department to court over the department’s assuming control of Carnival celebrations.
Heyliger alleged that the Carnival Committee used an off-island attorney to keep its actions out of the public eye in the Virgin Islands. "It was done underhandedly and secretly," she said.
When asked about the trademark applications, the Washington attorney, Barth deRosa, would only say that the applications are pending.
Attorney Heather Thompson at the Trademarks Office, who declined to answer specific questions about the applications, said that Virgin Islands Carnival and V.I. Carnival are still active applications because they have the word "live" in their records.
However, the phrase St. Thomas Carnival has gone through the process and is slated to be published in the Trademarks Official Gazette on Oct. 17. People will have an opportunity to comment then.
"They have 30 days of the publication date," Thompson said from Washington, D.C.
Residents can send their comments to the Commissioner of Trademarks, P.O. Box 1451, Alexandria, VA 22314-1451.
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