– Justin Brown, son of the late Kinetic Sculpture Race founder Hobart Brown, threatened to wrest control of the current incarnation of the race from the nonprofit organization that has been putting it on since 2007. In a press release issued this morning, Brown alleges that the race – scheduled to take place in two and an half weeks – may not go forward under the stewardship of Kinetic Universe in the absence of a signed contract that recognizes his ownership of certain phrases and written material.
Does he have a case? Almost certainly not. Though Brown told KHUM’s Mike Dronkers that he has legal advisors involved in his struggle with Kinetic Universe, today’s press release and his “cease and desist” letter appear not to have benefited from legal advice. In any case, as McKinleyville attorney Jason Garlick affirmed to KHUM’s Larry Trask a few moments ago, any actual order from a court of law would pertain to unauthorized use of intellectual property, and not the race itself.
Brown had an understanding with Kinetic Universe over the past few years, as Kinetic Universe President Monica Topping’s response to Brown’s press release affirmed. (Full disclosure: Topping works at Lost Coast Communications, parent company to both KHUM Radio and the LoCO). The new contract proposed by Brown seeks to affirm his ownership of a few items associated with the race, among them the concept of “Rutabaga Queens,” the Kinetic Chicken logo, his father’s name and likeness and the Kinetic Sculpture Race rule book, a whimsical and literary document.
Brown’s actual ownership of these things is very unclear. A search of the federal trademark registry shows only one trademark registered to Hobart Brown: “Kinetic Sculpture Race.” For precisely this reason, Kinetic Universe has taken to calling their event the “Kinetic Grand Championship.” Garlick said that for Brown to bring a trademark case against Kinetic Universe, he would have to demonstrate the different phrase was “likely to cause confusion” – a high bar, in the counselor’s opinion, given that there are 300-odd instances of the word “kinetic” being used in registered trademarks.
As for “Rutabaga Queen” or the Kinetic Chicken, there appears to be no registered owner for those trademarks at all:
The rule book is a more complicated matter, given that it’s subject to copyright law. Unlike with “trademarks” – images, catchphrases and the like – copyrights pertain to larger works, and a person does not have to register a work to own a copyright to it. But who would own the copyright to the rule book, Garlick asks? Is it demonstrably the work of one author or many? There is a messy legal battle to be had here, if anyone truly cares to fight it.
In any case, bottom line: There is almost no way for Brown to stop the race going forward under Kinetic Universe. Race on. Here’s audio to today’s KHUM interviews with parties in the dispute:
And attorney Jason Garlick:
– The suspects in last weekend’s hate crime turned themselves in early this morning.
– The Contra Costa Times has a nice feature on a UC Berkeley student and Hoopa native who’s finishing up her Ph.D on the Hupa language. The feature – by HSU grad Matt Krupnick – speaks with Kayla Carpenter and other students of Hupa culture, and also with Hoopa Valley residents who are hoping that Carpenter can help keep the language alive.