Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Lawsuit on misuse of artists' name

An Indiana company is misleading the public about who has the rights to use the name of 19th century artist Frederic Remington, a federal lawsuit claims.
The lawsuit was filed by The Frederic Remington Art Museum.
It seeks to stop Gregory Shideler of Fort Wayne, Ind. from using the name Frederic Remington Art Museum Foundation on his Web site and literature. It also seeks cancellation of federal trademarks previously issued to the man and the Frederic Remington Trust 1861 LCC.
The Ogdensburg museum also wants a declaration that it can continue using Remington's name despite whatever trademark rights Shideler does hold, the museum's attorney, Edward Conan, said Tuesday.
The lawsuit accused Shideler of engaging in 'a wide-ranging scheme of trademark abuse and misuse' that has caused 'confusion and harm' to the museum's reputation and standing.
Shideler did not immediately return an e-mail seeking his comment. There was no telephone listing for him in the Fort Wayne area.
Born in 1861 in Canton, N.Y., and raised in Ogdensburg, Remington was an illustrator, sculptor and journalist whose depictions of cowboys and Indians helped burnish the legend of the wild West. His artwork remains widely exhibited today, with pieces on display from the White House to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The museum, originally founded as the Remington Art Memorial in 1923, is located in the home where Remington's wife lived after his death in 1909. It possess a comprehensive collection of original Remington art pieces, personal effects and correspondence.
Shideler's trust acquired a federal trademark in 1995 for the use of the name Frederic Remington on a variety of products, including eyeglasses, carbonated apple cider, umbrellas, cologne, clothing and cigarette cases, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Syracuse on Jan. 29.
In 2005, the trust trademarked the artist's name for the custom manufacture of two- and four-passenger horse-drawn sleighs with patent leather harnesses, brass sleigh bells, buffalo hide interiors and bison cape comforters.
In 2006, the company obtained a trademark for the Remington name for bronze sculptures.
Conan said Shideler has previously threatened legal action against the museum in an attempt to get it to stop offering what he claimed were unauthorized reproductions of Remington's work. Instead, the museum initiated legal action.
'He's made extravagant and insupportable claims about whatever rights he may or may not have. We felt some step had to be taken to get clarification and resolution,' Conan said.
According to court documents, the trust has variously represented itself as a 'Foreign Private Trust' with a mailing address in Mexico, or as a limited liability company with addresses in Fort Wayne.
Conan said Shideler's use of the Frederic Remington name has been problematic for the museum.
The lawsuit said the museum has been contacted by a tax review board in Indiana because of confusion over the foundation's name. It has also been contacted by law enforcement officials investigating a tax refund scheme in which refunds were being directed to the Frederic Remington Art Museum Foundation at an address for an inmate in an Arizona prison.
The trademarking of bronze statues by the trust is especially troubling for the museum, Conan said. Last year, the museum negotiated a partnership with J.W. Hulme Co. for an offering of a 'Frederic Remington Art Museum Collection' of merchandise in the Hulme catalog.
The trust allegedly sent Hulme a 'cease and desist demand' accusing the company of infringing on its trademark.
'Resolving this will allow us to give some assurance to potential partners with us that they can use Frederic Remington or the bronze statues and they don't have to worry that they are going to get sued or harassed for violating a trademark,' Conan said.

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