Who Owns NYC PRIDE?

Brandon Voss

As Pride approaches, there is trouble. Apparently the trademarked NYC PRIDE can only be used for Heritage of Pride official events. This has gone to court where a judge has granted a temporary restraining order to prevent promoters of gay parties like Brandon Voss from using ‘NYC’ and ‘Pride’ together in any of his promotional material. The restraining order will be honored, but this case will be decided in court long after the last parade or party –official or not. Brandon Voss has a weekly Saturday party promoted to and attended by the LGBT community year-round. It seems silly to me that there was no way found to include his soireé into the celebration as a whole. It seems unconscionable that something so profoundly based in unity could wallow in this divisiveness. I asked Brandon to elaborate (he’s a great elaborator). 

What is going on here? Pride is upon us and I’m reluctant to use the term NYC Pride in fear of a lawsuit. Instead of unifying, there are lawsuits dividing. I read that you said, “Pride is an inclusive, fluid and intangible movement, especially in its birthplace of New York City. Pride is for everyone and is the property of no one.” Please explain this whole mess.
Sure, Ill try to give you the abbreviated version.  Heritage of Pride (HOP), the organization that, to their credit, organizes the annual pride parade, recently filed for a trademark on “NYC Pride” claiming a date of first use in May 2011. Surprisingly the mark was granted in April of this year. As soon as they received the mark, they demanded we remove the words “NYC Pride” and “New York Pride” from all of our Saturday advertisements as we were infringing on their trademarks. We, as you know, refused and last week were slapped with this lawsuit as a result. Coincidently HOP expanded their “official” events this year to include their first ever Saturday night event, putting them in direct competition with our long running party slate. They claim we were trying to trick the public into thinking our events were official Heritage of Pride events, so they had no choice but to sue us, but if that was the objective we would have used the name Heritage of Pride or its logos… Instead we used NYC Pride and New York Pride as descriptors since we believe those terms to be in the public domain. If we were trying to trick people into thinking we produce the official Heritage of Pride events, I probably wouldn’t be giving you this interview either.

You also stated that with all the “official” events, only a meager amount of money is going to charity. Can you elaborate?
Yes, they give about 10% of net income to various charities (which amounts to a few thousand dollars). The rest goes to operating expenses and salaries. I point this out because they tout themselves as a charitable organization that we are trying to take advantage of. What they are is a non-profit that uses the funds from their events to produce a series of “official” pride events and the parade. Besides the fact that I haven’t self-anointed my events official, their business looks rather similar to mine.

What events are you hosting? Is the beef that your long running party is competition to their special event?… and while we are here, inquiring minds want to know, are you donating part of your proceeds to a charity?
I have an entire weekend of events. Our popular Berlin party Friday night, Saturday afternoon’s Matinee party on Governors Island, Supreme at Capitale with Azealia Banks and DJs Chus and Ceballos, a Sunday afternoon with one my favorites Candis Cayne performing at the Dream Downtown, and a closing party Sunday night at Liberty Theater with a surprise performance by a Grammy award winning artist. Details on all these events can be found here www.VossNYC.com

A percentage of our profits from both the Matinee and Supreme parties go to Life Ball. I can’t give the exact amount until after the event, but suffice it to say it will most certainly be more than the few thousand HOP gave last year.

This is a temporary injunction and the dispute will be settled in court long after the last Pride party of this year. Are you going to fight this ruling?
Yup.

New York City Pride has been celebrating since 1970. Why is this an issue now?
That’s precisely my point. HOP has no business claiming ownership of NYC Pride. It’s a holiday that the community has celebrated for 45 years. To me it’s akin to claiming ownership of Black History Month or St. Patrick’s Day.