Ravinia Festival Sues A Craft Brewery For Trademark Infringement

The Ravinia Festival Association, whose grassy lawns come alive with a slew of summer concerts every year, filed an updated complaint in a trademark infringement case against Ravinia Brewing Company, a craft brewery in Highland Park, over the use of their shared neighborhood moniker.

The updated complaint in the federal lawsuit between the non-profit music organization and the microbrewery accuses the brewing company founders of intending to, “trade and infringe on the Ravinia [Festival Association] name and trademark” from the start of their business plan.

Relying on newly produced business documents from Ravinia Brewing Company, the festival argues the documents reveal how the brewing company intended to “falsely imply” an association with the Ravinia Festival.

Ravinia Festival also filed a petition with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) last week requesting the cancellation of Ravinia Brewing Company’s registered trademark, on the grounds that the brewery knowingly made false statements in its application to register the Ravinia Brewing mark with the USTPO.

The petition alleges RBC signed the “no confusion declaration” on the USTPO application despite knowing the declaration was false. The clause states that, “no other persons … have the right to use the mark in commerce in the identical form or in such near resemblance as to be likely, when used on or in connection with the goods/services … of such other persons to cause confusion or mistake, or to deceive.”

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois also approved the festival’s request to add Ravinia Brewing IP, LLC as a defendant to the 11-count complaint first filed in October 2023, alleging the brewery violated a since-rescinded 2018 agreement to limit the use of their shared name.

According to the updated complaint filed on May 24, the music festival only recently learned of Ravinia Brewing IP (RBIP), a Delaware-based company that allegedly owns all intellectual property used by Ravinia Brewing Company (RBC) and licenses the intellectual property to the brewpub and “possibly others.”

The complaint states Ravinia Brewing IP is a “necessary party” in the lawsuit for Ravinia Festival to, “obtain complete relief.”

In a press release from the Ravinia Brewing Company, the brewpub calls for community support against the “unjust litigation.”

“The lesson taught to us by Ravinia Festival Association’s lawsuit is Ravinia Festival Association can strong arm a small business like Ravinia Brewing Company to close their doors by filing a lawsuit against a business whose families cannot afford to defend,” the press release said. “Anyone who has been financially bullied and under financial duress by someone with more money will know exactly how we feel.”

In the release, the brewing company asks: “Is there really anyone who believes that the Ravinia Festival Association, with its $60M in cash reserves and seemingly unlimited legal and PR resources, is damaged by RBC when you enjoy RBC beer and tacos?”

The founders of the brewing company plead in the news release for Ravinia Festival board members and community members to request the litigation end immediately.

Prior to taking legal action against the brewery, the festival made efforts to work privately with the brewery, Ravinia President and CEO Jeffrey Haydon said.

“The recent revelations expose a troubling pattern of behavior, including the brewery’s intentions from the outset to capitalize on Ravinia’s brand and its ambitions to operate nationally,” Haydon said in a statement. “The brewery’s disregard for our trademark rights and misrepresentations to Ravinia and the community left us no choice but to take further action to protect Ravinia’s trademark.”

According to the amended motion, four days after the non-profit festival organization asked the brewery to consent to the filing of the amended complaint, Ravinia Brewing IP filed a declaratory judgment action against Ravinia Festival in state court.

The motion filed on May 20 in the Circuit Court of Cook County seeks a declaration that the 2018 trademark agreement between the festival and the brewery remains enforceable. The brewery argued that the viability of the federal court case depends on whether or not the 2018 agreement is still in effect.

In February, the brewery answered the festival’s October complaint in a pair of counterclaims, alleging the festival committed fraud when obtaining a trademark.

The brewery contended the festival association’s 2011 trademark for exclusive rights to use the “Ravinia” name for “restaurant services; catering services; offering banquet facilities” was obtained fraudulently, noting the signed declaration that no one else was using the name for food and restaurants – despite the existence of local restaurants like the Ravinia Green Country Club and the former Ravinia BBQ and Grill.

New records discovered

Ravinia Festival’s amended federal complaint brings to light records from Ravinia Brewing Company, which the festival alleges shows the brewing company, “falsely implied (and continues to falsely imply) an association with Ravinia.”

“From all appearances, this false implication is intentional,” the amended complaint stated.


Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune

Ravinia Brewing Company’s second taproom location at 2601 W. Diversey Ave. in Chicago, is seen on Nov. 7, 2023. (Credit: Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune)

In 2016, a marketing firm hired by RBC asked the founders in a questionnaire if the company had a reason for its name. The questionnaire was attached as an exhibit in the amendment complaint.

The founders responded that the company was started in the Ravinia neighborhood, and also that the area is well-known across Chicago, “largely due to a large outdoor music series.”

“As a result of the 100 year old music festival (which hosts a combination of classical artists to some of the best artists in the country), there’s an immediate positive brand equity associated with the name ‘Ravinia’… feelings of summer, sunshine, live outdoor music, picnics, and indulgence are conjured up through the name ‘Ravinia,’” the founders wrote in their response.

When Ravinia Brewing Company Chicago was seeking a loan from the Small Business Administration in 2017, the brewing company made “plain their intentions to trade on Ravinia’s valuable name and trademark,” the festival’s complaint alleges.

In a business plan from 2017, attached to the complaint as an exhibit, the founders state: “‘Ravinia’ is a well-known brand in Chicago made famous by the ‘Ravinia Music Festival’ that has celebrated more than 100-years of bringing music and entertainment to the broader Chicagoland community.”

The business plan later states: “The Ravinia festival creates community by bringing a diverse mix of world renowned performers and influences to the Chicagoland area, making them accessible to all who have a passion for music. At Ravinia Brewing Company Chicago, we aspire to capture the essence of the festival in world class beer and food available to all our customers – creating our own sustaining community.”


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