Longtime local record store Waterloo Records has filed suit against the new Waterloo Music Festival over the use of the name “Waterloo,” the record store announced in a press release sent out Saturday evening.
Waterloo Music Festival is scheduled to make its debut at Carson Creek Ranch Sept. 7-9 with headliner String Cheese Incident plus more than two dozen other national and local acts.
Waterloo Records’ press release stated that the store filed suit “reluctantly” after seeking to work out an amicable solution with Jam Fest LLC, the promoter of the festival.
Waterloo Records owner John Kunz said in the press release that “under Texas and federal law, if we don’t defend ourself against infringing use of our name, trademark, and common law rights, we risk the surrender of all those rights. Additionally, WMF’s use of the name ‘Waterloo’ has caused a great deal of general confusion, both locally and nationally, as to whether or not Waterloo Records is producing this fest.”
An unnamed spokesperson for Waterloo Music Festival responded via email Sunday: “We find this lawsuit to be without merit. We respect Waterloo Records and appreciate all it does for Austin music. It’s unfortunate that we are not in agreement on this issue.”
Speaking by phone on Sunday afternoon, Kunz said that the lawsuit was not seeking an injunction to stop the Waterloo Music Festival from happening. He added that he hopes a deal can still be struck before the festival begins on Friday. If the festival does take place with usage of the Waterloo name, then the outcome of the lawsuit could potentially lead to financial ramifications for the festival’s producers.
Waterloo Records opened in 1982. Other businesses in Austin have used the name Waterloo over the years, including Waterloo Ice House, a local restaurant chain that opened in 1976 and presented live music at some of its locations for many years. (The chain currently has four Austin-area locations.) Waterloo was the original name for the city of Austin, before it was renamed after Stephen F. Austin.
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Kunz said Sunday that although he’s never filed for a federal trademark of Waterloo pertaining to live music performances and festivals, “through common-law usage we’ve been doing those things under the name of Waterloo for decades.”
He cited the store’s regular live-music in-store performances, as well as “a couple of decades’ worth of music festivals both inside the store and, in the last nine years, outside the store during South by Southwest.” While the multi-day events during SXSW have been officially promoted as “Waterloo Day Parties” and not as a “festival” per se, Kunz says he believes his store’s SXSW events essentially constitute a festival presentation.
In the press release, Kunz said that the record store’s legal action “in no way intends to put any damper on the bands and fans looking to have a great experience at the Waterloo Music Festival. … Additionally, we wish the festival promoters well. We simply need for them to find another name for their fest that doesn’t step on our Waterloo Records name.”