A few days ago, I was approached by a colleague to participate in the preparation of a bid to the Virgin Islands Tourism Department for the management of the Virgin Islands Carnival.
Before accepting this task, I asked the individual what would be the new name used for Carnival were the bid awarded. I asked this question because I had previously heard the V.I. Carnival Committee Inc. state that they owned the trade name "Virgin Islands Carnival," which would mean that no other person or entity could use these words in reference to our Carnival.
I decided to do some research of my own, and, to my shock, horror and dismay, I uncovered that YES, in December of 2004, the V.I. Carnival Committee indeed submitted applications to the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) to trademark, not only the words "Virgin Islands Carnival" but also "St. Thomas Carnival" and "V.I. Carnival" as well.
The ramifications of this are far-reaching. Here is a little example: An individual who in past years printed a T-shirt with the words Virgin Islands Carnival on it could no longer do so because the V.I. Carnival Committee would own these words. They would have to ask permission. If you as a vendor printed an umbrella with the words St. Thomas Carnival on it in the past, you could no longer to do so because the V. I. Carnival Committee would own these words. If you as a musician are accustomed to printing a CD with the words V.I. Carnival on it, you could no longer do so, because the V. I. Carnival Committee would own these words. Imagine for a moment that anytime anyone anywhere uses these words the V.I. Carnival Committee could stop them, take them to court or demand payment.
The question I would like to pose to the people of the Virgin Islands is this, "When did our culture become a trademark to be controlled by one organization?"
The V.I. Carnival Committee, Inc. has chosen to drag the people of the Virgin Islands into a fight with our local government and the only ones that will be hurt by this are the people of these islands.
As I continued my research, a major discrepancy was noted with the filing of these applications in regards to the date of "USE IN COMMERCE" of the words Virgin Islands Carnival, St. Thomas Carnival and V.I. Carnival. The USPTO requests that applicants state the date they began using a proposed trade name in commerce. On one application, the V. I. Carnival Committee, Inc. stated that they began to use the words Virgin Islands Carnival in commerce since 1952. Somehow I find this a little impossible since the V.I. Carnival Committee, Inc. did not exist until 1976, almost 25 years later. On another application they stated that the words V.I. Carnival was first used in commerce by them in 2004. Is the V.I. Carnival Committee for real?
The V.I. Carnival Committee, Inc. used a firm in Washington D.C. to file their applications. One has to wonder why they did not use a local firm. Can the reason be that at some point their plan would have leaked to the Virgin Islands public?
The USPTO in their wisdom initially declined to trademark the words "St. Thomas Carnival" & "Virgin Islands Carnival" because they said the monikers was too generic and used by so many people. The attorney for the V.I. Carnival Committee, Inc. appealed their decisions and the application for "St. Thomas Carnival" is now ready to be "PUBLISHED FOR OPPOSITION" on October 17, 2006.
People of the Virgin Islands, we need to put a stop to this hijacking of our culture. Thankfully we have the opportunity to do so now. The applications that were submitted by the V.I. Carnival Committee, Inc. have not yet been approved. We do not have to wait until all the applications are "PUBLISED FOR OPPOSITION" we can end this now.
According to the USPTO an application can be stopped if a "LETTER OF PROTEST" is submitted, with a successful argument as to why these names cannot be trademarked. According to one of the USPTO attorneys I spoke with who is assigned to the applications, any supporting documentation should also be attached to the letter in order to strengthen the argument for the refusal of these applications.
I implore every single Virgin Islander to send a "LETTER OF PROTEST" to: Commissioner of Trademarks, P.O. Box 1451, Alexandria, VA 22314-1451 and let them know that the names Virgin Islands Carnival, St. Thomas Carnival or V.I. Carnival do not belong to one group of people to be controlled as they wish, but that they belongs to all the people of the Virgin Islands.
You can submit a letter of protest for one trademark application or for each of the three applications. The reference numbers must be included: "Virgin Islands Carnival" – Ref # 76623588, "St. Thomas Carnival" – Ref# 76623587, " V.I. Carnival" – Ref # 76623589.
Make note that the words "LETTER OF PROTEST" must be at the top of the letter in BOLD and you must include the Ref # for the application you are protesting. If you happen to have a newspaper clipping, a website article, a picture of a t-shirt, or anything with the words, Virgin Islands Carnival, St. Thomas Carnival and/or V.I. Carnival on it, please include it with your letter. Let the USPTO see that the V.I. Carnival Committee, Inc. is not the only entity that uses these words, but they are used by all Virgin Islanders and millions of people around the world.
If you would like to view each application mentioned above please visit: http://www.uspto.gov and click on the Trademark button then chose search trademarks and search for the words Virgin Islands Carnival, St. Thomas Carnival, or V.I. Carnival.
Finally, I appeal to all Virgin Islanders with a sense of cultural identity, I appeal to the Governor of these Islands, I appeal to the Department of Tourism, I appeal to our distinguished Senators to stop this travesty from happening. Do not let our culture be hijacked and controlled by a few.
Alma Francis Heyliger
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