Ravinia Festival Bullies Startup Brewery, Leading The Brewery To Shut Down Plans For Opening

from the bully-for-you dept

I’ve had the opportunity to write about many trademark disputes in these pages, but it’s been rare for any of them to hit very close to home. That changed this week when we learned that Ravinia Festival in the northern Chicago suburbs, at which I have seen many a concert, has decided to bully a startup brewery over its use of the word “Ravinia” in its name.

A demand for royalties from the Ravinia Festival halted preparations to open a brewpub in Highland Park’s Ravinia district in the coming months. The outdoor music festival sent a letter to the Ravinia Brewing Company two weeks ago demanding licensing payments and royalties for the brewery’s use of the neighborhood’s name, according to the Ravinia Neighbors Association, a local community organization.

These demands simply make no sense. Ravinia Festival is a concert venue. It has trademark rights on the word Ravinia, a historical name for the area in which both businesses reside, for restaurants, catering services, and banquet services. It is not and never has been a brewer of beer, nor does it have a valid trademark for that market. There is no potential for customer confusion, either, as nobody is going to walk into a brewery expecting to see a classical music concert. In other words, this is pure bullying.

And, all the more annoying, Ravinia Festival can’t even be bothered to be consistent in its bullying.

Between 1985 and 2015, the proposed location of the Ravinia Brewing Company’s restaurant at 592 Roger Williams Avenue housed Ravinia BBQ. There is no indication Ravinia Festival ever sought licensing payments from that restaurant during its three decades of operation. In order for the music festival to get its trademark for “restaurant services,” it filed a sworn statement alleging there was no other restaurant using the name, despite the existence of the longtime barbecue joint.

To be clear, Ravinia is bullying a brewery over the name of a geographic area using the term in a market in which Ravinia Festival does not operate. Meanwhile, Ravinia Festival likely did infringe on the trademark rights of the barbeque joint located at the exact same address as this new brewery back when it was in operation and lied on its trademark application to get the mark approved. Ravinia Festival also did not object when Ravinia Brewing Company applied for its own trademark back in 2015.

Sadly, none of that may matter, because Ravinia Festival has lots of money and the brewery does not.

The brewpub’s owners, Highland Park residents Kris Walker, David Place and Brian Taylor, say they will be forced to cancel plans for the business if the music festival doesn’t relent.

Their proposed pub planned to offer a full menu, but had no intention of hosting musical performances.

It looks like I may have to cross Ravinia Festival off of my list of concert venues in the future, unless there is enough public backlash to correct its behavior.

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Companies: ravinia brewing company, ravinia festival

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Comments on “Ravinia Festival Bullies Startup Brewery, Leading The Brewery To Shut Down Plans For Opening”

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PaulT (profile) says:

“To be clear, Ravinia is bullying a brewery over the name of a geographic area”

Therein lies the problem. Until it’s not possible to trademark what are essentially factual descriptions of where a business is located, these things will always come up because people will name their businesses after where they are located. As ever, although these companies could and should be acting differently with the trademarks they own, it’s a broken system that allows them to behave as such.

jsf (profile) says:

Having been to the Ravinia Festival for at least a dozen concerts, I can confirm that they are in the “restaurant services” business. they have multiple restaurants on the grounds and you can rent them out on non-show dates.

The trademark claims about there being no others that use Ravinia in their name however are definitely bullshit.

In the Chicago area whenever anyone says the word Ravinia, they are talking about the music venue, not anything else. But that should not give them exclusive rights to the name.

Qwertygiy says:


I think you’ve probably misunderstood the difference between “trademark” and “copyright.”

Unlike copyright, where only one person has the “right” to “copy” something in pretty much any form they desire, trademark is only valid for a “mark” in a “trade.”

Mark = a name or design or slogan or jingle or other intellectual property that is reasonably unique and can be used to promote a business.

Trade = a specific business in which the mark will be used. Like restaurant services, automobile sales, or internet blogging. If you want to enforce your mark in multiple trades, you have to file a trademark for each one.

That is why Miller Brewing Company and Miller Electric and Miller Cameras can co-exist. Why Apple Inc. (computers) and Apple Corps (the Beatles’ record agency) and Apple Bank and Apple Leisure Group can co-exist. Why 20th Century Fox and Fox clothing and Fox Software and Fox Pizza can co-exist.

Unless a “moron in a hurry” could look at one product or service, and believe it to be the same as the other, a trademark is not infringed upon.

Ravinia Festival has a trademark claim upon restaurant services, but not upon beer. The only way in which I believe this could be a trademark violation is if the brewery serves food; and if that’s the claim they make, their own trademark must be invalid, since Ravinia BBQ operated at that very location, long before Ravinia Festival even existed.

PaulT (profile) says:


“They have a legit trademark”

Well, they really shouldn’t, if the name is only a factual description of where they’re located. Everyone located in that area has an equally valid claim on the name.

They also have a trademark specifically for certain types of business operation, and they appear to be overstepping those bounds to some degree.

“If not what good is a trademark?”

The entire purpose of a trademark is to avoid customer confusion and to prevent competitors from using shady tactics to steal your customers. Which is not what was happening here.

If you want to believe it’s something to give companies all-encompassing power and control markets that’s your choice, but you’re wrong.

PETER says:



Let us see who wins. I remember hearing similar things with the comic com lawsuit and we know how that one turned out.
Don’t we?
Either pay up or change your name or change laws so they don’t get the trademark in the first place.

You people remind me of Scott Smith and his fight against Entrepreneur Mag. He willfully infringed and lost in court about 20 years ago and has whining about them being a bully ever since.

PaulT (profile) says:


I’m guessing you think you’re saying something insightful but all you’ve proven is you think that using caps lock means you have a valid point (you don’t).

“Let us see who wins”

The problem with people like you is that “winning” is all that matters to you. The long-term cost of that “win” and the facts that the game is rigged means nothing, so long as you can boast about a hollow victory. But, hey, so long as it’s gamed in the favour of the people you like, it’s all good, right?

Changing the laws would be a good thing, but noting that they are bad laws, poorly enforced, in the first place is equally the right of everyone here.

PETER says:


It might be a bad law but it is still a law.

I don’t like the helmet law. I have money and health insurance it’s nobody’s business if I get injured. It’s on me. That’s my attitude. But we have a law and if I break it I suffer the consequences.

It’s not a matter of win or loose. It is the law in place right now in the present. You just don’t like it. You just think your a more insightful intellectual that is above all the fighting and LAWS.

Why don’t you join Scott Smith and fight bullies. He needs all the help he can get.

PaulT (profile) says:


“It might be a bad law but it is still a law.”

…and people have the right to criticise a law. Why are you having a problem with people exercising that right?

“I have money and health insurance it’s nobody’s business if I get injured.”

Well, that and everyone else who you cause problems for because you are too dumb to realise why it is that helmets are necessary, of course. Especially if your health insurance doesn’t cover what you need from it and/or the money runs out while you get whatever you need after your injuries, provide for whichever family your death leaves behind, etc. But, that’s a different issue.

“Why don’t you join Scott Smith and fight bullies”

You seem particularly obsessed with this person, but I’ve never heard of him before. What is your personal beef with him, I wonder?

Is it the same thing that makes you angry that a person dares to criticise a law, or that he dares explain why the current setup is counterproductive to everyone’s needs? Or, do we have to bow down and blindly obey every law without question?

PETER says:

You know Paul ever time you open your mouth you prove my point. Your a real deep thinker eons above the normal person.

You can criticize a law but nobody else has that right.

Tells us Paul, which laws are bad laws and which laws you deem necessary. Which ones should we ignore? Trademarks?

You have a lot in common with Smith. He has his own set of facts with trademarks like you. I find it amusing with people who pick and choose which laws should be enforced and which should be ignored.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“You can criticize a law but nobody else has that right.”

Who said that? Certainly not me. You’re the only one attacking people for exercise their opinion, actually.

“Which ones should we ignore?”

I don’t know. I’ve not said anyone should ignore any law. Is there anything else you want to pretend I’ve said, or can we start a conversation from the position of reality?

“You have a lot in common with Smith.”

So? I don’t know who he is or how he’s relevant to my opinion that place names should not be trademarkable for the business that are named after the location in which they are physically located.

Perhaps instead of beating on that poor strawman, you should explain yourself?

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