Hidden City Philadelphia website claims ABC appropriated its name and trademark for video report series

By Nicholas Malfitano | Dec 5, 2017

American Broadcasting Company, Inc.  

PHILADELPHIA – A Philadelphia-based news website has sued the American Broadcasting Company for trademark infringement and disparagement, claiming the network improperly used the website’s name to produce a series of feature news videos on historic locations in the city.

Hidden City Philadelphia filed suit in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas on Nov. 20 versus ABC, Inc., also of Philadelphia.

In 2009, the plaintiff hosted the initial iteration of its history and architecture festival called the “Hidden City Festival," which consisted of “tours and artistic performances in, and lectures about, a multitude of historic locations in and around the City of Philadelphia, receiving extensive press acclaim and multiple awards for same.”

The plaintiff launched its Hidden City Philadelphia news website in 2011 and hosted another such festival in 2013, receiving similar acclaim and press, according to the lawsuit.

On Sept. 29, 2016, the suit states ABC television producer Gwendolyn Perdom emailed Hidden City Philadelphia’s project director Peter Woodall, explaining the network planned to create a series of videos called “Hidden Philadelphia” and seeking contact information to access the Kelly Natatorium at the Philadelphia Water Works – a location about which the plaintiff previously produced coverage of on its website.

Per the litigation, the plaintiff, Woodall or anyone else did not consent to the production of such news videos by ABC, yet production of the videos apparently commenced nonetheless. The suit says a series of nine videos was discovered by the plaintiff’s co-editor, Nathaniel Popkin on June 6.

That same day, Popkin contacted April Carty-Sipp, ABC’s vice president of programming, to register a complaint that the defendant’s use of videos about rare, historic locations in Philadelphia, using the name “Hidden Philadelphia" was done without receiving permission from the plaintiff to do so, “particularly since the plaintiff had been producing news stories, under a similar sobriquet, about similar areas of journalistic interest, since at least 2011, and that the defendant was attempting to capitalize on the good name earned by our tiny non-profit.”

The suit says Carty-Sipp did not respond to Popkin’s message and a response was then sent the next day by ABC’s in-house counsel Theresa W. Karle, who was said to have written “the names are not identical – one includes the word “CITY” and the other does not.”

“Ms. Karle also proffered the ridiculous and hypocritical assertion that the news services provided by the defendant were not identical to the news services offered by the plaintiff, by virtue of the fact that the plaintiff also uses its name for an “online publication, tours, festivals and community services,” the suit says.

When contacted, Karle referred the Pennsylvania Record to another member of ABC’s in-house counsel, Indira Satyendra. In a subsequent phone call, Satyendra was not able to be reached for comment.

The litigation states Hidden City Philadelphia has invested “enormous amounts of time, effort and money in developing and marketing its products and services, and the “Hidden City Philadelphia” mark and trade dress” and that ABC has unlawfully infringed on its intellectual property in the past and continues to do so, through its media distribution channels.

For alleged violation of the Trademark Act, unfair competition and commercial disparagement, the plaintiff is seeking judgment against the defendant; an order requiring the defendants to pay to plaintiff all profits derived from and all damages suffered by reason of their wrongful use, display or sale of plaintiff’s name and/or mark(s) and/or trade dress; an order providing an injunction against the defendant, prohibiting any further use of the plaintiff’s name, mark, trade dress or any permutation thereof; plus punitive and/or treble damages and reasonable attorney’s fees, in excess of $250,000.

The plaintiff is represented by J. Conor Corcoran in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas case 171102058

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nickpennrecord@gmail.com

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City of Philadelphia Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas

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