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.