The American Society of Association Executives won a lawsuit against housing company Complete Event Planning for unlawfully using ASAE’s logo in marketing materials.
ASAE filed a complaint in Nevada District Court against Complete Event Planning in July after it discovered that the Henderson, Nev.–based company had used the association’s logo without permission and otherwise misrepresented itself as ASAE’s official booking agency when soliciting reservations for ASAE meetings and conventions, alleged ASAE.
On December 3, Nevada District Court Judge Brian Sandoval signed a consent order, requiring CEP to refrain from using any trademark or logo owned by ASAE—or any of ASAE members’ associations—in any print or online marketing or promotional materials. It also prohibits CEP from stating or suggesting that the company is affiliated with ASAE—or any of its members’ associations—to secure reservations for their meetings and events. The order also prohibits any representative of CEP from seeking membership in ASAE for three years and requires CEP to pay a portion of ASAE’s legal fees.
“This consent order represents a victory for associations and other nonprofit organizations that find themselves victims of trademark infringement,” said John Graham, president and CEO at ASAE & The Center for Association Leadership, in a press release. The victory opens the door for other associations to follow suit in similar trademark infringement cases. “While there is no law prohibiting individuals from using an outside booking agent, meeting attendees have a right to know the relationship between a company and the meeting sponsor when making their reservations.”
ASAE’s General Counsel Jerry Jacobs of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, Washington, D.C., commented in a press release: “The resolution of this lawsuit is a potentially huge benefit not only to ASAE but to members’ associations as well,” he said, referring to the associations that ASAE members work for. “Violations of the consent order by the defendant firm CEP can become the subject of contempt proceedings. The consent order also sends a signal to firms other than CEP that the association community will not tolerate improprieties in this area.”
The International Association of Exhibitions and Events had a similar problem with CEP in recent months. In September, IAEE expelled CEP as a member after learning that the company had solicited IAEE exhibitor members to provide housing services for its annual meeting (taking place this week in Miami) without being the official housing bureau. After being expelled, CEP allegedly didn’t remove the IAEE logo from its Web site. IAEE was about to file a lawsuit for trademark infringement when CEP agreed to remove the logo, explained Steven Hacker, IAEE president and CEO. Consequently, IAEE dropped its suit.
Of the ASAE action, Hacker said: “The circumstances are a sad commentary on the state of the ethics and conduct of some individuals and businesses. Fortunately, they remain the very small minority.”
Alex Alexander, corporate division director at CEP, said the company had agreed to take ASAE's logo off of its site before the court was involved. “This was a clerical oversight and was remedied as soon as the upper levels of our organization was aware that the mistake had been made,” he stated. “The legal resolution came through the courts as ASAE had proceeded with legal action prior to being in contact with the upper levels of our organization. There was never a dispute regarding our taking the logo off.”