Baltimore, Light City co-founders agree to settle lawsuit over festival trademark

Weeks after the second installment of Light City Baltimore, the city and the couple who co-founded the illuminated art festival agreed Monday to settle a legal dispute over the festival's trademark, according to federal court records.

"The parties have reached a settlement in principle. They've agreed that they would like to resolve the case in this way, and as a result of that, the case has been dismissed," interim city solicitor David E. Ralph said Tuesday afternoon. Details of the settlement are still being worked out, he said.

U.S. District Judge Ellen L. Hollander dismissed the federal lawsuit, which was filed by the city in October, along with the counter claims made by married couple Brooke and Justin Allen, the co-founders of Light City.

The lawsuit asked the court to declare Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts and Baltimore Festival of the Arts — nonprofits that throw events for the city — the sole owners of the Light City name, logo and other marks, which would restrict the Allens from using the name and would bar their marketing and creative agency, What Works Studio, from "falsely representing" that they were connected with BOPA.

The Allens, who dreamed up the festival and began working on it in 2013, filed a counter suit in November, which claimed that BOPA misrepresented plans for their relationship to defraud them and gain control over Light City. The couple's goal was to bar the city from using trademarks associated with the event.

The Allens and their attorneys could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The Allens said in November that they originally agreed to work with BOPA with the understanding that they would continue to own and operate the innovation conference portion of the event, known during the first year as Light City U. The Allens hoped to export the ticketed conference portion to other cities.

But problems arose after BOPA opted not to work with What Works Studio for this year's festival, according to attorneys.

In the lawsuit filed against the Allens, BOPA said it was dissatisfied with What Works Studio's work on Light City U. The Allens, who received more than $170,000 for their work on the inaugural Light City, were supposed to book speakers, but BOPA said they failed to do so, "thereby jeopardizing the conference portion of the festival and the overall success of the festival," according to court documents. Eventually, BOPA took over bookings and decided to organize the 2017 event without What Works.

Light City debuted in Baltimore in 2016, drawing some 400,000 attendees to see the 1.5-mile lighted art walk along the Inner Harbor, along with various performances and activities hosted around the city. This year's festival was two days longer — it ran from March 31 to April 8 — which likely pushed attendance up 17 percent to an estimated 470,000 people, according to BOPA executive director Bill Gilmore.

Baltimore Sun reporters Chris Kaltenbach and Tim Prudente contributed to this article.

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