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Legal Turf War Over Surf City Title

Huntington Beach sends cease-and-desist letter over a T-shirt, taking the fun out of rivalry with Santa Cruz. The shirts are now 25% off.

September 23, 2006|Jennifer Delson | Times Staff Writer

If beachgoers thought the sand fight between Huntington Beach and Santa Cruz for use of the name of "Surf City USA" was over, they were wrong.

The southern and northern beach towns have both claimed to be the one and only Surf City. Both have waves that board riders cherish and both have a thriving surf scene. And, after all, the authors of the Jan and Dean song never really did say which town they had in mind.

All in all, the competition seemed to be spirited, good fun.

But this week, attorneys for the Huntington Beach Conference and Visitors Bureau upped the ante by vowing to go after anyone infringing on the slogan. For the record, Huntington Beach has trademarked the "Surf City USA" moniker.

And now the lawyers, Ardelle St. George and Don Carnegie of Irvine, have gone after a beloved Santa Cruz wharf T-shirt shop owner for selling shirts that read "Surf City Santa Cruz California USA" with a picture of a male surfer.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday September 28, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 60 words Type of Material: Correction
Surf City battle: An article in Saturday's California section on the battle over the "Surf City" title identified Huntington Beach Councilwoman Jill Hardy as the city's mayor. The mayor is Dave Sullivan. The article also identified Christina Glynn as a spokeswoman for the Santa Cruz City Council. She is the spokeswoman for the Santa Cruz County Conference and Visitors Council.

In a sharply worded cease-and-desist letter received Sept. 15, they gave owner Bruce Noland until Sept. 29 to stop selling the shirts.

Up north, the legal challenge was received with typical surfer nonchalance.

Noland's on the Wharf immediately put the $17 shirts on sale. They're now 25% off, and Noland is hoping to have them sold by the time deadline arrives.

Next, the Santa Cruz County Conference and Visitors Council sent out a news release declaring that its counterparts from Huntington Beach had "wrangled its first outlaw."

"Come on," said Christina Glynn, a spokeswoman for the Santa Cruz City Council. "It's only a T-shirt."

Noland's only request to Huntington Beach was: "Give me a little more time to sell 85 more shirts."

Glynn, however, was thinking that by limiting the number of shirts that could be sold, their value would go up to consumers.

"After all," she said. "They are collectors' items now." She said she was sending one to Paris Hilton, who has knack for attracting attention.

Officials in Huntington Beach were unamused by the response to the legal challenge.

Huntington Beach Mayor Jill Hardy said that if the Santa Cruz visitors council "wants to help a business violate trademark law, that's Santa Cruz's problem. The city of Huntington Beach would not take it lightly if a store was violating federal law."

Doug Traub, president and chief executive officer of the Huntington Beach Conference and Visitors Bureau, wasn't available for comment.

In May, the bureau secured three trademarks to use the slogan on bags, hats and T-shirts, as well as for advertising and promoting the city's economic development.

Although state Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) initially sought to challenge the trademark with a resolution, he dropped the fight in late August.

Noland's, which has sold swimwear, sunglasses and sundries for 45 years, intends to redesign the shirt to avoid offending fellow beach lovers in Southern California even though Noland says the attorneys' letter "is a little much over a $17 shirt."

Nonetheless, Glynn said the Northern California city is actually reaping the benefits of Huntington Beach's effort.

News coverage of the ongoing flap between the cities has generated tens of thousands of dollars in added exposure for Santa Cruz as a travel destination, she said.

"It's really put Santa Cruz on the map," she said. "We couldn't have bought that kind of publicity."

It distinguishes between the more commercially oriented Southern California beach and the unorthodox Northern California surf spot, she said.

"If you want to go to a place with a trademark, head to Huntington Beach," said Glynn. "When you want to surf with the big dogs, come to Santa Cruz and don't forget to wear your T-shirt."

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