Jazz on the Mountain has been cancelled for 2012, and now festival founder Arnold Schwisberg is threatening to sue the Resort Municipality of Whistler for trademark infringement.
Schwisberg, a high profile Toronto-based liquor lawyer, has written a letter to Jan Jansen, the RMOW's general manager of resort experience, stating that he will be seeking $704,000 in damages stemming from a series of Vancouver print ads advertising JOMAW as part of the RMOW's Whistler Presents free concert series.
"They said it was theirs, they said it was free. That's trademark infringement and the damages are obvious," Schwisberg said.
"They're going to lose. I don't know how much they're going to lose, but they're going to lose."
The RMOW issued this statement on Wednesday when asked about the potential lawsuit:
"We have received correspondence from JOMAW in regards to legal action against the RMOW. We cannot comment on legal matters."
Schwisberg's decision to cancel came following the announcement of Festival, Events and Arts (FE&A) Oversight Committee's allocation of RMI funds to summer programming. Whistler receives RMI monies from the province for tourism related projects, as do 13 other resort communities — this year Whistler's total is $6.3 million. JOMAW's request for $150,000 — which had been requested to help alleviate the festival's $500,000 deficit — was turned down.
He said the magnitude of the defecit was such that he is unable to invest any more capital into the 2012 festival.
"Everything was hinging on the municipality," he said.
Schwisberg had also asked that the RMOW not schedule any free concerts within two weeks of the festival, which was slated for the Labour Day weekend, so as not to compete with his ticketed events. According to the Oversight Committee's presentation to council, the RMOW has now scheduled a free concert for the Labour Day weekend.
Schwisberg called the Oversight Committee's decision not to support JOMAW financially as "incomprehensible," given the RMOW's support for the festival less than a year ago.
Only six third-party event producers received funding for the augmentation of their festivals.
On the issue of copyright infringement, Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said, "I don't know anything about that. That was last year. I was not on council then."
She said she's not certain why the denied request for funding would mean the end of the festival.
"Just because he was not successful in getting a grant from the FE&A group doesn't mean that's the end of the jazz festival," she said.
"He didn't receive any municipal funding last year to speak of, and if he does decide that he wishes to go forward with the jazz festival, we will do everything that we can to cooperate with the staging of it. That's his decision."
For more information on the FE&A plans and how the money will be spent this year click here.
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