Mammoth Lakes Film Festival vs. Mammoth Film Festival: A retrospective
On Wednesday, December 27, The Hon. Judge Mark Magit ordered an injunction against Silver Sail Entertainment, LLC, to be instituted on March 1, 2018, two weeks after the inaugural Mammoth Film Festival. Mammoth Lakes Film Festival director Shira Dubrovner told The Sheet that she would prefer the injunction be issued immediately, but that this was the second-best outcome she could ask for.
This spring, a group that is not affiliated with Mammoth Lakes Film Festival announced it will be hosting the first annual “Mammoth Film Festival.” The announcement generated some confusion around town. The inaugural event for the Mammoth Film Festival has been set for February 2018.
The physical address for the festival office listed on the website is 6201 Minaret Road, but there’s no post office box number. Its emblem features a gondola. According to the original iteration of its website, mammothfilmfestival.org, its partners included Mammoth Rock ‘N Bowl, the Town of Mammoth Lakes, and Mammoth Mountain Ski Area.
Jimmy Huh, Director of Advertising at Mammoth Mountain, said that to the best of his knowledge, no one at MFF has contacted the marketing department. He said MFF could have talked to other people on the mountain, but any partnership or sponsorship connections would eventually go through his office.
“The group approached Mammoth Lakes Tourism this winter,” said Lara Kaylor, Director of Communication for Mammoth Lakes Tourism. Representatives from the Mammoth Film Festival asked to be put on the agency’s online calendar of events. Kaylor replied that Mammoth Lakes Tourism would be happy to put the Mammoth Film Festival in its annual event calendar once it becomes a bona fide festival, complete with a published lineup.
Those partners are no longer listed on the festival’s website.
Organizers of the Mammoth Film Festival told The Sheet that they did not see a conflict resulting from the similarity of the festivals’ names.
“Just because the name is one word apart, it doesn’t make a big difference,” said Toomik Mansoori, a co-founder of the event. “Mammoth has a meaning too, it’s not just the name of a town or mountain.”
Other organizers of the event include Theo Dumont, Daniel Sol, and Tanner Beard.
Locals (not Mammoth Lakes Film Festival organizer Shira Dubrovner) started a petition asking the new festival organizers to change the name.
On December 11, Lawyer Michael Bornfeld told The Sheet that he filed a lawsuit for “unfair competition” on behalf of the Mammoth Lakes Foundation (the organizers of the Mammoth Lakes Film Festival) against Silver Sail Entertainment, LLC (the organizers of MFF).
On December 27, Judge Magit called his decision “a very close call” due to the fact that both “Mammoth Film Festival” and “Mammoth Lakes Film Festival” were “very weak” names when it came to trademark-ability, due to the fact that the term “film festival” is generic, and the term “Mammoth” has several meanings. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected the MLFF’s application because MFF had applied for a trademark first, and the names were too similar. Magit said that “Mammoth Lakes Film Festival” had not yet reached a status where it was instantly recognizable, like “Sundance” and “TriBeCa” are.
However, he said that the Mammoth Lakes Film Festival had “earned something that deserves some level of protection,” particularly because the festival had recently been featured in Movie Maker Magazine’s “Top 50 Film Festivals Worth Your Entry Fee.”
Magit said he felt it would be most fair to “allow them to proceed with this first film festival in February, which is about six weeks away…then have the injunction go into effect so this issue could be resolved… at a later date.”
Magit set a trial date for April in order to resolve the issue before the MLFF, which happens during Memorial Day Weekend, got too far into its film submission deadlines.
Magit said he did not see malice in the MFF’s adoption of their name, though Bornfeld disagreed. Bornfeld called their use of the name “predatory.”
Magit said that he currently had no evidence that the MFF organizers had acted in bad faith, and that Tanner Beard gave a sworn statement that he had planned on bringing a film festival to Mammoth Lakes as far back as 2011, before the MLFF existed. Beard said in his statement that he waited until the name “Mammoth Film Festival” was abandoned by its previous owner, before obtaining it.
The attorney for Silver Sail, Matthew Brining, who joined in the hearing via telephone, said that the MFF was going to be bringing in a different clientele than the MLFF. He also said that Sophie Turner’s film “Josie” will be the opening night gala film. Turner is an actress on the hit HBO series “Game of Thrones. The MFF’s Facebook page lists “Dylan MacDermott” as one of the stars of that film, but his name is misspelled in the festival’s post (the actor’s last name is spelled “McDermott”).
“The court’s greatest concern is a lack of evidence on both sides,” said Magit on Wednesday, stating that there was not enough documentation provided by either festival to demonstrate that the similarity in names would lead to the public, filmmakers or festival-goers being confused.