Cleveland Metroparks files suit against Pittsburgh Zoo over name of popular event

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CLEVELAND (WJW) — The Cleveland Metroparks has filed a federal complaint against Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium over the name of the popular Asian Lantern Festival.

In court filings, the Cleveland Metroparks claims trademark rights after originating the name, Asian Lantern Festival, and using it annually to promote Cleveland Metroparks Zoo‘s event since 2018.

It claims the Pittsburgh Zoo is advertising it inaugural light show using the same name and that the zoo is using photos and other materials from the Cleveland Zoo’s event for its own show.

The Cleveland Metroparks’ Asian Lantern Festival begins July 14 and runs through September. The Pittsburgh Zoo’s event runs from Aug. 14 through October.

The Metroparks’ filing claims visitors throughout Ohio and western Pennsylvania associated the name with the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, and that in 2020, visitors came from more than 100 cities in Pennsylvania. The suit claims that using the same name is likely to cause confusion between the two events.

The Cleveland Metroparks states it contacted the Pittsburgh Zoo via email June 25, 2021 to request the zoo rebrand its event, according to court documents. The Pittsburgh Zoo then sent a reply letter asserting the Cleveland Metroparks can’t claim trademark rights to the name, filings say. It also stated it would consider renaming next year’s event.

The complaint asks that the Pittsburgh Zoo be restrained from using the Asian Lantern Festival name or using video or photos originating from the Cleveland Metroparks to promote the event.

The complaint also asks for punitive damages, costs and attorney’s fees.

A statement from Cleveland Metroparks Zoo states:

Asian Lantern Festival originated here in Cleveland in 2018, attracting more than 150,000 annual visitors to Cleveland Metroparks Zoo each summer and was the first of its kind at a zoo in the country. Over the past several years, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo has openly shared the successful event concept with zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. However, after Pittsburgh Zoo toured Cleveland Metroparks Zoo’s event in 2020, the Pittsburgh Zoo began using the mark Asian Lantern Festival in 2021 without authorization including in Cleveland Metroparks Zoo’s direct market to promote its new light show scheduled to run concurrently with Cleveland Metroparks Zoo’s festival. Asian Lantern Festival has become a summer staple in Cleveland and we want to protect our event and the reputation and success we have achieved over the past several years.   

Fox 8 has reached out to the Pittsburgh Zoo for a statement.

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