The Atlanta BeltLine and its name exist exclusively for the public good and cannot be used for personal or commercial purposes without infringing on that public trust. At ABI, our responsibility is to protect this public asset for the public in all its forms. When others use “Atlanta BeltLine” or “BeltLine” as part of their own name and brand for a product or a service, it can create the mistaken impression that the individual or business and their product or service is either provided by or is related to or sponsored by the Atlanta BeltLine and ABI. That activity can compromise the integrity of the public interest.
We want to assure the public and especially the residents and supporters of the Atlanta BeltLine that we appreciate the support and the civic pride you all take in the Atlanta BeltLine. We respect your right to freedom of speech and expression about the Atlanta BeltLine and in no way want to infringe on your right to free expression.
We ask on our website (see Logo and Name Usage) for individuals and businesses to contact us before using the name so that we can discuss their request to use the name and perhaps be considered for a license agreement. Unfortunately, people rarely contact us first to discuss usage of the trademark and the overwhelming majority seek to use the name for their own personal financial gain which we cannot permit.
We have previously addressed and resolved and / or are currently addressing over 200 unauthorized uses of the trademark.
We also are very conscious of being good stewards of public and donor dollars. So when you read or hear that ABI has spent $350,000 in legal fees protecting the brand, please understand that this amount reflects our efforts over the course of seven years and includes annual trademark and licensing fees. One half of what has been spent over the past 7 years was TO DEFEND or PROTECT ABI’s right to use its own name with several thousand spent for the actual registration and protection of the marks.
Moreover, when you read or hear that we are bullying citizens or businesses and taking them to court, that is untrue. ABI makes every effort to make personal contact first whenever we are made aware of a trademark issue in order to amicably resolve the matter.
Although we have only been to court once on these matters, ABI has been involved in various alternative dispute resolution methods, including arbitration and mediation, in order to protect the trademark for the public good. For that one court case, it is not true that it cost ABI “only $25,000.” In order to protect our right to use our own name and misuse of the name, the total cost was nearly $100,000. This is why it is such a serious matter to us.
As it relates to the “Humans of the Atlanta BeltLine” facebook group, ABI has at no time sent a cease and desist letter to its owner, Ms. Fream, nor are we involved in any litigation against Ms. Fream. In fact, we reached out to her personally to make her aware that she was using a registered trademark. We have not heard back from Ms. Fream about potential alternatives to using the mark and would welcome continuing the conversation.
For more details on this particular topic, please see this article on a blog of the Atlanta Journal Constitution: “BeltLine officials to creator of Facebook page: ‘BeltLine is a trademark that must be protected.”
We understand that in many ways it is not possible to please everyone on a complex topic like this one. We want everyone to know that our intent and commitment is always to protect the Atlanta BeltLine in all its forms for the benefit of everyone so that everyone can continue to enjoy its many benefits and share in the civic pride that surrounds it.