Warren Miller Entertainment Sues Level 1 - Ski Mag

Warren Miller Entertainment Sues Level 1

A battle over the voice of Warren Miller brings the case to the courts.
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Let's Go Skiing (1959)

The word is out: Warren Miller Entertainment has filed a trademark-infringement lawsuit against Level 1. Why? Because Level 1 used voiceover from Warren Miller (the man, who’s now 84 and lives in Washington and sold the rights to his voice to Warren Miller Entertainment in 1995, prohibiting any other media from using his name or voice). According to the Denver Post, the lawsuit, filed in a Denver U.S. District Court, says that Warren Miller Entertainment has been “irreparably injured and damaged” by the unauthorized use of the Warren Miller name. Yesterday, a judge turned down WME’s request for a temporary ban on public showings of Level 1’s movie, which played last night at the Boulder Theater.

Full Disclosure: Skiing Magazine and Warren Miller Entertainment are owned by the same company and share the same office. We often mingle with the Warren Miller staff over the water cooler. That said, all they can tell us publically about the lawsuit is what is in their official statement. Here’s a portion of that statement: “Beginning with the pioneering work of ski and film icon Warren Miller, and for the last 20 years under WME's stewardship, WME has invested significant resources in the development and preservation of the Warren Miller brand. The careful and creative use of that brand, and the annual Warren Miller ski films that form the centerpiece of WME's business, have played an integral role in establishing and defining the ski film industry. Under the trademark laws, but even more critically under a common sense of fairness, WME believes it imperative to retain control of the use of the Warren Miller brand.”

Level 1 producer Josh Berman also issued a statement: “Level 1 has never, nor will ever, have any intention or desire to deceive our audiences into thinking that our films are in any way related to Warren Miller Entertainment, or further, that we are trying to capitalize on the brand and image created and purveyed by Warren Miller Entertainment. To the contrary, we have always gone out of our way to promote the Level 1 brand and our films, as entirely unique within the skiing community.”

When Refresh premiered on September 11 at the Bluebird Theater in Denver, Skiing’s art director Mark Lesh was sitting in the audience. You can read his blog post from the event here.

We'll keep you posted as best we can on this situation.

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Warren Miller is arguably the most iconic figure in the world of skiing. His annual ski films are regarded as celebrations of the beginning of each ski season. It all started in 1946 when Miller and a friend moved to Sun Valley, ID, lived in the parking lot in a teardrop trailer and earned money as ski instructors. In their free time, the two would film each other in order to critique their ski techniques. In the summer, they did the same thing while surfing off the California coast. Miller showed his ski and surf films to friends and told stories and jokes while they watched. After receiving countless invitations from friends to show his films and narrate them at parties, he realized he could make his hobby his business. In 1949, he founded Warren Miller Entertainment and began his long-standing tradition of producing an annual, feature-length ski film. He toured his film around to theaters near ski towns each year, often showing it at night, so he could shoot the next year’s footage during the day. Before long, Miller was showing his films in 130 cities a year. In the late 1990s, Miller stepped aside from his hands-on production of the film, but one is still produced annually in his name. Since 1950, Warren Miller Entertainment has produced 59 feature-length ski films—and still counting.

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