A co-founder of the Burning Man arts festival held in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert has filed a lawsuit against his former partners over the rights to the Burning Man name and trademark.
John Law filed in federal court January 9th, alleging event board members Larry Harvey and Michael Mikel recently claimed ownership over Burning Man’s trademarks, which violates an agreement the trio signed when Law quit the organization in 1996. The suit also seeks unspecified damages.
Law’s goal is to strip his former partners of ownership of the event’s name and logo and place the rights to the trademark in the public domain.
"I decided to fight to keep anyone from having an exclusive right to capitalize on these brands," Law wrote on his blog. "Burning Man belongs to everyone."
The six-day event’s ideals of radical self-expression and self-reliance drew about 40,000 people to the desert last year, paying ticket prices ranging from $195 to $280. Commercial sales are banned in favor of a "gift economy."
Burning Man representative Marian Goodell said that organizers have diligently worked to protect the event’s name and what it stands for by turning down offers of corporate sponsorship and use of the Burning Man image in ads.
"It’s kind of hard to imagine that the principles of Burning Man would remain intact if the name was in the public domain," Goodell said.
She added that Harvey and Mikel are going into arbitration in their own disagreement over the rights to the trademarks in order to solve the issue "in a reasonable manner."
Meanwhile, as Burners hotly debate online the possibility of someday seeing the Burning Man name licensed to multinational corporations, Law apparently isn’t too concerned.
"Those who really are part of it and support it will never mistake the event, and their involvement in it, with ‘Burning Man condoms’ or ‘Burning Man antacid tablets,’" he wrote.