The operators of the South by Southwest annual music fest have had to sue to keep others from using their name. “We have to deal with people wanting use East by East West and any number of variations,” says Roland Swenson, SXSW managing director and cofounder. “People move ahead with things without bothering to ask us.”
Some of those people include the operators of the North by North Park music fest.
“I don’t think anybody would deny that the use of that name [North by North Park] is evocative of South by Southwest. I told them, ‘Come on, guys, come up with something original here.’ ”
Swenson says the SXSW name has been used for 23 years to identify the Austin music fest and that his group also owns the trademark for the annual North by Northeast festival held in Toronto for the past 17 years.
“Part of owning a trademark is protecting unauthorized use and protecting it from people who want to change it around slightly. When that happens, it causes what is known as dilution of the trademark. It weakens the trademark holder’s ownership of the mark.”
He says Xerox is an example of trademark dilution.
“We have a duty to protect our trademarks. We made South by Southwest a well-known term, and that is one of our main assets. Not a month goes by that we don’t have to remind others about that fact.”
He says a lawsuit against North by North Park organizers is not imminent. “We have not gotten anywhere close to that. We asked them to pick a new name. We have been going back and forth with the CityBeat people since August. I don’t know what will happen next. It’s an ongoing thing. These sorts of things can drag on for a long time.”
CityBeat publisher Kevin Hellman was one of the organizers of North by North Park. Swenson notes that CityBeat is a San Diego sponsor for SXSW. “We appreciate their involvement very much.”
North by North Park cofounder Kevin Hellman says, “We have no comment at this time.”
The first NXNP event, held August 8 and 9 of last year, included music-industry panel discussions and local talent showcases at 14 venues in North Park. The SXSW music fest runs March 18–22.