As the Woodstock 50 anniversary festival fights for its life at a new venue in Vernon, New York, owners of the Woodstock brand are asking a federal judge to lift a ten-month old restraining order and allow a licensing deal with one of North America's biggest dispensary operators to proceed.
Lawyers for Woodstock Ventures, representing the original founders of the 1969 Woodstock festival — Artie Kornfeld, Joel Rosenman, John Roberts and Michael Lang — has for months asked a judge to rule on its lawsuit with Woodstock Roots, a Pennyslvannia holding company that sells hemp rolling papers, vaporizers and other extracts under the consumer brand Woodstock American Products. Lawyers for Woodstock Ventures say Woodstock Root's products infer a connection to the festival since the company's tagline is "Since 1969," despite the fact that Woodstock Roots was formed fairly recently.
Lawyers for Woodstock Ventures argued the name and tagline could create confusion as Woodstock Ventures finalized a licensing deal with MedMen to create a 50th anniversary recreational marijuana strain to coincide with the Aug. 16-18 festival in upstate New York.
That festival is now in serious jeapordy — yesterday (July 11) the city of Vernon rejected an appeal by festival organizers after their application to stage the festival at a nearby race track was denied. A meeting is scheduled between city officials, the owner of the track and Woodstock 50 officials for next week and follows a string of setbacks that began when investors pulled out of the event in April.
Lawyers for Woodstock Roots have pounced on the festival's difficulties, writing in a Wednesday (July 10) letter that "widely reported missteps in production by Mr. Lang have made the cancelation of his anniversary concert a fait-accompli," noting "tickets for the concert tentatively scheduled for mid-August have not even gone on sale."
Woodstock Ventures filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Woodstock Roots in February 2018, but the case backfired. Woodstock Roots counter-sued with theirs lawyers arguing that Woodstock Roots has already filed for a trademark in 2013 to use the Woodstock name on smokeable products, which lawyers for Woodstock Ventures did not oppose at the time. On Aug. 28, a federal judge overseeing the case agreed to issue a temporary restraining order blocking Woodstock Ventures from completing the licensing deal with MedMen until a preliminary injuction in the case was settled.
Discovery in the case dragged on for months and in March, judge Robert W. Sweet who had been overseeing the case, died at age 96 after 41 on the bench in the Southern District of New York.
On Monday (July 8), lawyers for Woodstock Ventures asked newly assigned judge Paul Gardephe to finally make a ruling on the case, writing "we last appeared on April 10" and asked that the temporary restraining order "be disolved" considering major American companies like Anheuser-Busch InBev, Altria and Neiman Marcus were trying to get into the cannabis business and could pose a competitive threat.
So far, no further hearings have been scheduled in the case.