Baltimore’s arts council is suing the couple who planted the idea seed for the festival that lit up Baltimore and brought hundreds of thousands to the Inner Harbor this past spring.
The Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts (BOPA) filed suit against Justin and Brooke Allen, owners of What Works Studio, in the U.S. District Court of Maryland on Wednesday, BBJ first reported. The office alleges they violated their agreement by falsely claiming they, rather than the city, own the trademarks and design elements for the vibrant event. It also says they failed to book speakers for the innovation conference Light City U as they had promised.
The suit comes after months of attempted negotiations between both parties and asks for a judge to determine who indeed owns the trademarks to the festival. It also requests compensatory damages.
Justin Allen told the Sun on Thursday that he was “not surprised” BOPA had filed suit “after they didn’t hold up their end of the deal,” and that he felt “justice will be served” at trial. The Allens have not responded to a message from Fishbowl requesting comment.
BOPA Executive Director Bill Gilmore said in a carefully worded statement issued on Thursday that BOPA and its affiliate, Baltimore Festival of the Arts, Inc., were the first to use the Light City trademarks. “Most unfortunately, WWS [What Works Studio] and its principals, Ms. Brooke Allen and Mr. Justin Allen, have asserted ownership rights in the Light City trademarks and started to use these marks for their own benefit,” he said, adding, “WWS has repeatedly misrepresented the Light City trademarks and service marks as belonging to WWS, and has acted in a manner inconsistent with BFAI and BOPA’s ownership rights.”
BOPA has already announced some changes for planning round two of Light City, scheduled to run from March 31-April 8, 2017, while the matter remains in dispute. Bill Gillmore said in his statement that moving all planning in-house will “optimize future event operations to make Light City Baltimore possible.”
Light City may not have made money this past spring, but it did make the Inner Harbor a fluorescent, musical spectacle and brought some of Baltimore creative and innovative talent into the public eye. Let’s hope the lawsuit doesn’t leave too much unfinished in terms of planning by the time spring rolls around.
Ethan McLeod is associate editor for Baltimore Fishbowl.