Surf City Rivalry Gets Gnarly

The Associated Press
Friday, October 13, 2006; 3:43 AM

SAN FRANCISCO -- Two Santa Cruz beachwear shop owners are going to court in an attempt to wipe out the city of Huntington Beach's trademark to the nickname "Surf City USA."

Attorneys for the shop owners filed a lawsuit Thursday in response to Huntington Beach's demands that they stop selling T-shirts emblazoned with "Surf City USA" in a circular border around "Santa Cruz California."

"This case is not about which city has the most legitimate claim to be called the true Surf City USA," said attorney Ted Herhold, who represents the owners of Shoreline Surf Shop and Noland's on the Wharf. "Rather, this is about the freedom of individuals and merchants to conduct their business free from spurious claims of trademark infringement."

The Huntington Beach Conference and Visitors Bureau announced in May that it had secured a trademark giving it exclusive use of the "Surf City USA" brand name in ads and on clothing.

"When you own a trademark, it is your job to enforce it and make sure no one infringes upon it," bureau president Doug Traub said Thursday, adding that he hasn't been served with the lawsuit and could not comment on it.

In their lawsuit, Ginger and Bruce Noland, who own the two shops, argue that Huntington Beach's trademark doesn't give it exclusive rights to the moniker. They also want the court to order the director of the U.S. Patent Office to invalidate the trademark.

The lawsuit is the latest ripple in an ongoing North-South rivalry between Santa Cruz and Huntington Beach over which city can lay claim to the Surf City label. Huntington Beach points to the 1963 hit song by Jan and Dean. Santa Cruz, meanwhile, argues that it has been called Surf City since 1927, when a local newspaper coined the moniker.

Until recently, the dispute has been mostly good-natured.

After the visitors bureau moved to trademark "Surf City USA" for a marketing and merchandising campaign, the mayor of Santa Cruz proposed a surf-off, with the winner taking the name. When Santa Cruz asked the state Legislature to designate it "Surf City USA," Huntington Beach's senator suggested that neither city qualified for the title on the basis of the song lyrics: "two girls for every boy."


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