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Trademark turmoil update April 30, 2010

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Web sites.
10 comments

The controversy between Route 66 vendors, retailer Zazzle.com and a firm in the Netherlands that is claiming trademark ownership of the Route 66 shield morphed from aggravating to surreal.

It was reported a few days ago that Route66Licensing.com and a sister site, Tempting Brands.com, is claiming a trademark of “Route 66″ and its shield. Subsequently, Netherlands firm persuaded Zazzle.com to remove the listings of American vendors sellingRoute 66-related products on the website. However, Route 66 and the Route 66 exist in the public domain in the United States, and cannot be trademarked here.

The situation turned especially strange in the past 24 hours when it was learned that this image of the Route 66 ghost town of Spencer, Mo., by Mike Skidmore was removed by Zazzle after another infringement claim by Route66Licensing.com:

The part of the image that apparently ran afoul is the replica of the old Phillips 66 gas station sign. Route66Licensing.com either is claiming the Phillips 66 sign is a Route 66 sign, or a hypercautious Zazzle nixed the image without looking at it closely. Jim Ross, a Route 66 expert in Oklahoma, wrote in response:

Where are these Zazzle idiots from? Do they not realize that the shield pictured is a trademarked brand of Phillips Petroleum? If they are not going to  require any proof whatsoever of brand ownership from Route 66 Licensing, then we need to organize a boycott of  Zazzle as well. In fact, it might be a worthwhile to investigate whether Zazzle can be sued for violating laws of interstate commerce or unfair trade practices.

E-mails to Zazzle and Route66Licensing.com from Route 66 News have gone unanswered.

In the meantime, longtime New Mexico Route 66 advocate Johnnie Meier on Friday built stoproute66licensing.com as a way to fight back. he said in an e-mail:

We will construct the web site cataloging abuses by route66licensing.com.

We will provide well-researched and documented resource information on the shield image, Route 66, Mother Road and other identifiers claimed by route66licensing.com.

We will also expose the route66licensing.com tactics used to unethically register Route 66 identifiers as trademarks in foreign markets.

After a fact-finding period, we will be organizing aggressive action against route66licensing.com.

I’m convinced the folks at Zazzle are asleep at the switch, and these probably are isolated incidents. However, the problem has become so potentially serious that it’s time to put Zazzle and Route66Licensing.com on notice. The financial future of many Route 66 retailers could be at stake.

Kicks on the bricks April 29, 2010

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music, Road trips.
4 comments

Well, this is charming …

The dancing is taking place on an old brick section of Route 66 near Auburn, Ill.

The Solar family is blogging its trip on the Mother Road.

Abandoned in Arizona April 29, 2010

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses.
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Here’s a video about two abandoned Route 66 places in Arizona — one is Pine Springs in Flagstaff, and the other is the Twin Arrows complex, which is actually starting to undergo some restoration. You may see a lot of images of Twin Arrows that you’ve never seen.

Looks like they made it April 28, 2010

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Road trips, Vehicles.
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The fellows in Cars for a Grand managed to drive that $1,000 Cadillac all the way on the Route 66 corridor from Chicago to Los Angeles, according to a news release this morning.

Chris and Jorge purchased the car on April 9th in Thomson, IL where it was reportedly kept in a barn and summer driven. After throwing down $1,000 in cash, the guys stopped at a local GM dealership for a tuneup and to make sure the car was safe for themselves and the other drivers along Route 66. They had a blowout in St. Louis and had to get a new set of tires, but all in all from Chicago to LA the total car cost was under $1400.

It’s obvious from this video and others that they stuck primarily to the interstates. But can you blame them for not wanting to attempt, say, the Mojave Desert, in a 38-year-old car?

Child actor in “The Grapes of Wrath” dies April 27, 2010

Posted by Ron Warnick in Movies, People.
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I missed this a few weeks ago, but Shirley Mills Hanson, 83, who portrayed a young Ruthie Joad in the 1940 classic film “The Grapes of Wrath,” died on March 31 from complications of pneumonia at a hospital in Arcadia, Calif., according to the Los Angeles Times.

Known during her acting career as Shirley Mills, she attended one of the big Route 66 festivals a few years ago and told the audience at the John Steinbeck Awards her memories of the film’s production.

Much of the film was shot on Route 66, including a scene near Bridgeport, Okla., where the Joad family has to bury just-deceased Grandpa near the west end of the Pony Bridge. That’s the scene where Mills wept in a heart-rending fashion. Her acting earned much praise from director John Ford.

Kevin Hansel, the former president of the California Route 66 Association, gave us this memory of Mills Hanson:

I was fortunate to to have her at our annual 66 dinner as a special guest speaker and had the evening taped. My picture with her, all the autographed items, are a treasure. She was a down-to-earth person and so full of life. Ironic was the dinner was held at the Aztec in Monrovia, the same city she lived.

Mills Hanson’s death leaves Darryl Hickman, now 78, as the only surviving cast member from “The Grapes of Wrath.” Hickman, who portrayed a young Winfield Joad, gave his memories of the film a few years ago, and the video includes a scene with Mills:

(Hat tip: Kevin Hansel)

Vendors roiled by Route 66 trademark claim April 26, 2010

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Signs, Web sites.
11 comments

A company in the Netherlands that claims trademark ownership of “Route 66″ and its shield has persuaded Zazzle.com, an international retailer of custom-made products, to remove the listings of least two American vendors who have tried to sell Route 66-related products on the website.

The company making the claim is TemptingBrands.com, aka Route66Licensing.com. The domain owner, according to the website and a domain search, is Martijn Berkhout of Amsterdam.

I’m no trademark lawyer. But after checking several sources and my own research, I can report this with confidence:

  1. “Route 66″ and the famous Route 66 shield are in the public domain in the United States; no one here can make a trademark claim on it.
  2. However, someone in Europe has made a trademark claim of Route 66. As far as we know, it’s still in effect. In what European and other countries the trademark exists is unknown.
  3. Although vendors selling Route 66 products in the United States can do so without running afoul of trademark law, it may be a different story in Europe.

It’s being speculated that Robert Groeneveld, also of the Netherlands, is behind the new Route66Licensing.com effort as a silent partner, although there’s no proof. Groeneveld applied for a Route 66 trademark in Europe during the 1990s and, during a subsequent trip to the United States, tried to persuade U.S. businesses that sold Route 66 products to pay a fee for the alleged usage of his trademark.

Bob Moore, who was executive editor at Route 66 Magazine at the time, said that he told Groeneveld to get lost (in more colorful language) and threatened to have him arrested for trespassing if he showed up on the premises again.

Since then, it’s been nearly 10 years since anyone in the Route 66 community has heard about Groeneveld.

To elaborate on Groeneveld and the trademark/licensing issues, Oklahoma Route 66 expert Jim Ross said in an e-mail:

The shield is public domain in the U.S. but not in many foreign countries. He successfully obtained trademark rights in most European countries and possibly on other continents. Not sure. Publications are exempt, which is why books, mags, etc., can be sold in those countries without interference. I know for a fact that he successfully sued and forced a travel agency to stop using the shield, which put them out of business. There were others, but I can’t recall all of the instances. He knows he can’t claim rights in the U.S., but that hasn’t stopped him from trying to intimidate or deceive people into complying with his licensing agreements.

At least one company in Arizona and another in Wyoming saw its Route 66 products on Zazzle pulled after TemptingBrands.com complained. And other sellers, as this Zazzle forum post reveals, have encountered the same obstacles.

Johnnie Meier, a longtime advocate of Route 66 in New Mexico, observed this irony:

The interesting thing to me is that they have produced a route 66 video on their web site …  that includes copyrighted material from photographers and artists we all know.  So, they are clearly guilty of infringement themselves.

Zazzle.com and Route66Licensing.com have not replied to e-mails from Route 66 News on this matter.

Members of the Route 66 community, including the Route 66 Alliance, are deliberating their options.

However, in the meantime, Route 66 businesses should know that they can still sell products with the Route 66 shield in the United States without the fear of a trademark or copyright violation.

Trial date set for McCook road closure lawsuit April 26, 2010

Posted by Ron Warnick in Highways.
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A lawsuit involving the closing of a one-mile section of Joliet Road, aka Route 66, in the Chicago suburb of McCook, Ill., finally will go to trial next month nine years after it was filed, according to David Clark, aka Windy City Road Warrior.

The Illinois Department of Transportation alleges that Vulcan Materials seriously undermined the road by digging at a nearby quarry. The road section was closed in 1998 because of severe pavement problems.

Clark writes on his blog:

After nearly nine years, the case is now scheduled to be heard in court starting May 10th. (Full disclosure: I have been retained by lawyers for IDOT to provide expert testimony on the history of Route 66 and the specific history of this section of Joliet Road through McCook). [...]

In the Autumn 2002 issue of the [Route 66] Federation News, then-Mayor of McCook Patrick Gorski wrote, “In May of 1998 a one mile stretch of Historic Route 66 was closed due to damage to the roadway…the road basically split in half and was actually moving, therefore causing certain sections of the roadway to sink, causing areas to crack, and concrete jersey walls to explode from the pressure of the movement…Limestone in the area was mined right up to about fifteen feet on the north and south sides of the Historic Highway 66 corridor. This type of mining, and excavating, along with other acts committed by the quarry operators, caused the roadway to be damaged.”

Vulcan maintains that nature is to blame for the road’s instability.

The lawsuit will determine whether Vulcan is liable for the road damage. Regardless, it seems doubtful, given the grave condition of the roadway, that it will ever be reopened.

Traffic is detoured onto a two-mile stretch of 55th Street and East Avenue.

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