Toronto

Why a U.S. company claims it owns the El Mocambo's classic palm tree logo

U.S. headphone maker claims it owns trademark to El Mocambo's palm tree brand

Natalie Nanowski, Michael Smee - CBC News

October 06, 2017

A U.S. company called Turtle Beach, whose logo is pictured at left, claims the El Mocambo's palm trees infringe on its copyright. (Turtle Beach and El Mocambo)

The El Mocambo's iconic neon palm tree sign may not be quite so original after all.

A California headphone maker is claiming the El Mo's traditional symbol infringes on its copyrighted logo, which includes two palm trees inside an inverted triangle.

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The issue came to light when the El Mo's new owner, CBC Dragon's Den star Michael Wekerle, hired Toronto-based trademark lawyer Taras Kulish to make sure the palm tree sign and logo were protected.

But when Kulish filed the legal paperwork with the federal trademark office, an American company called Turtle Beach objected, saying it already owns the logo.

On Thursday, Wekerle provided a statement about the controversy. It reads in part: 

The El Mocambo is currently undergoing renovations. (Mike Smee/CBC News)

"We have a long, well established brand history and we're confident there wouldn't be any confusion between the two logos. The trademark issue hasn't affected our vision or plans in any way. We're still working overtime to bring this iconic live music venue back for Toronto."

The El Mocambo is currently being redone from top to bottom and the original palm tree sign has been removed for renovations. In the past, Wekerle has told CBC Toronto that the new space will include facilities that will allow bands to record live, or stream performances online.

Turtle Beach, which makes headphones for the gaming and music industries, contends the El Mo's expanded ambitions overlap with its music interests, Kulish said.

"We're pretty certain there's no conflict when you look at it," Kulish told CBC Toronto Thursday. "It's not involved in music per se."

Trademark lawyer Taras Kulish says the El Mocambo's new owner, Michael Wekerle, is not violating a U.S. company's trademark with its palm tree logo (Gary Morton/CBC News)

Kulish said he's working behind the scenes to find a compromise with the U.S. company.

"We're confident that we'll be able to work out a solution that everyone's going to be satisfied with," said Kulish.

If the issue does wind up in the courts though, Kulish said it could take years for a decision.

In the meantime, the El Mo's palm tree sign is being remade, and will be installed over the club's location on Spadina south of College in time for the scheduled reopening next spring.

'It's going up'

"It's going up," Kulish said. "The El Mocambo is going to be opening as projected in the spring of 2018."

A spokesperson for Turtle Beach said in an email statement to CBC Toronto: "Thank you for reaching out on this matter.  As of now, the proceeding is pending in the Canadian Trademark Office. We have no further comment."

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