Who owns Open Air? CPR sues TPT over name

By Andrew Lapin

A public radio network is suing a pubTV outlet in a war over words.

Colorado Public Radio filed a trademark infringement and violation suit in federal court in Colorado earlier this month against Minnesota’s Twin Cities Public Television (TPT) over the name Open Air, which TPT is using to brand its new programming and promotional initiative aimed at younger viewers.

Andi McDaniel, manager of the new Open Air initiative from Twin Cities Public Television, welcomes the crowd to its first event, “Red, White & Brew: Let’s Drink to the Constitution!” The May 8 event at the Amsterdam Bar & Hall in downtown St. Paul was a collaboration with the Theater of Public Policy improv comedy group. (Photo: TPT)

Andi McDaniel, manager of TPT’s Open Air initiative, at a St. Paul event for the project in May. (Photo: TPT)

CPR has operated a Denver-area Triple-A music station with the same name since 2011, with a similar goal of appealing to younger listeners. The statewide network trademarked the name Open Air the same year, according to the suit. Prior to turning the signal into a music station, CPR used it to simulcast its news and information channel. TPT launched its own Open Air venture in May of this year.

The suit also alleges unfair competition, claiming that by using the same name, TPT is taking revenue that would otherwise go to CPR. TPT’s online activities give it “a presence” in Colorado, and its programs are “directly competitive” with CPR, the suit alleges.

“The selection and adoption of an identical Open Air mark represents a deliberate attempt by TPT to trade on CPR’s reputation and goodwill,” the suit reads.

CPR asked the court to require TPT to stop using the Open Air name and to turn over or destroy all related promotional material. CPR is also seeking unspecified damages from TPT.

“We were really surprised by the lawsuit,” Andi McDaniel, manager of TPT’s Open Air project, told Current. “We’re aware of a dozen stations and programs of various types throughout the public media system that use the name Open Air, and it didn’t seem like something that was competitive.”

The name is shared by a live summer music series staged by Cleveland’s ideastream; a music program on Oregon and California’s Jefferson Public Radio; and a show on a community radio station in Bend, Ore., among other titles inside and outside of public media.

McDaniel said that while TPT knew that CPR had trademarked the name, the station hadn’t anticipated any problems because the entities are in different states.

In a statement to Current, CPR spokesperson Lauren Cameron said the network had “conducted extensive research” prior to settling on the name Open Air.

“CPR reached out to TPT and requested they stop using the name to prevent confusion among our audiences,” Cameron said, adding that CPR filed the suit because TPT’s “activity has not stopped despite three separate attempts to resolve the issue.”

Questions, comments, tips? lapin@current.org
  • Alicia Browder

    I hope that TPT will stop using the name to stop the confusion. There are really situation that happens like most especially in competition but, to be fair all must play fair as well. They should settle this as early as possible. -http://www.ohmmedical.com/

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