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'Surf City' is stoked

Huntington Beach's 2006 trademark is bolstered by accord.

January 28, 2008|Christian Berthelsen | Times Staff Writer

A shop on the Santa Cruz wharf will stop selling T-shirts marked "Surf City, Santa Cruz California, U.S.A.," ending more than a year of litigation with the Huntington Beach tourist bureau, a lawyer for the agency said Sunday.

The suit became a proxy debate over which California beach town could call itself the nation's surf capital. The Huntington Beach Conference and Visitors Bureau registered the "Surf City U.S.A." moniker as a trademark in May 2006, leading to months of wrangling over the designation.

Even the Legislature got involved, with a state senator from Northern California seeking a resolution to challenge the trademark. He ultimately backed down.

Terms of the settlement are confidential, but Richard Sybert, a lawyer for the Huntington Beach group, said the shirts would have to be changed as part of the deal.

"My client is pleased at the resolution," he said. "The shirts will be changed and the challenge to my client's trademark dismissed."

Several California cities, notably Huntington Beach and Santa Cruz, asserted they were the true Surf City.

Historical texts were no help: The 1963 Jan and Dean song that created the name did not address the provenance.

The tourist bureau sent a cease-and-desist letter in September 2006 to Flotsam of California Inc., a Santa Cruz wharf T-shirt shop, for selling the shirts. In response, Flotsam sued, seeking a judicial ruling that the trademark registration was invalid and that the shirts were copacetic.

Theodore Townsend Herhold, a lawyer for Flotsam, confirmed that the case was settled but declined to comment on the terms, saying only that his client would soon be able to resume selling shirts.

"T-shirts will be on sale again, and we'll let everybody draw their own conclusions from that," he said. "Once the T-shirts are out, it will become evident."

Both sides said they intended to issue a joint statement within the next few days announcing the settlement.

christian.berthelsen@ latimes.com

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