East Hampton Town officials have agreed to hire attorneys at a Manhattan intellectual property law firm to revive a five-year fight against a Hauppauge apparel company seeking to trademark the name of a Montauk surfing beach.
The board voted Tuesday at its work session to pay Ferdinand IP up to $15,000 to represent the town in its opposition to trademarking Ditch Plains, an international destination known for its prime surfing conditions.
Seena International filed a trademark application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2013 to trademark its Ditch Plains logo used on hoodies, T-shirts and other items. The town soon after filed its opposition to the trademark application, claiming the trademark would prevent other local businesses from using the term.
“The point is to prevent this other company from asserting that they have the exclusive use of obviously something that is near and dear to the town,” said Ted Weitz of Ferdinand IP and a part-time Springs resident.
Representatives from Seena could not be reached for comment.
The five-year-old case had been suspended pending the outcome of a civil trademark suit between Seena and the company that manufactured its apparel. That case has been settled and the town must notify the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board of its intent to pursue the matter, Weitz said.
Seena International has been using the "Ditch Plains" name since 2005, but filed its trademark application in 2013. A previous trademark application in 2008 failed because of potential confusion with a New York City restaurant of the same name, which closed earlier this year.
The town’s 2013 filing notes the applicant is not located within the town and doesn’t manufacture its goods near East Hampton.
“Perhaps one of the most world-renowned locations within the town, together with the Montauk Lighthouse, is the Montauk surfing beach known as 'Ditch Plains' or 'Ditch Plains Beach' Montauk,” assistant town attorney John Jilnicki wrote in 2013. “The applicant’s application should be denied . . . since these goods have no connection to Ditch Plains, Montauk.”
Laraine Creegan, executive director of the Montauk Chamber of Commerce, said local merchants have for years put the words Ditch Plains on everything from bumper stickers to magnets to T-shirts.
"Our feeling is that nobody should be able to trademark or patent a specific area," she said. "That's throwing everybody else under the bus."