Huntington Beach Fights Back to Defend Surf City USA

Huntington Beach, California, UNITED STATES

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif., Feb. 12, 2007 (PRIME NEWSWIRE) -- Huntington Beach, the Southern California beach town long known as "Surf City USA," and celebrated in the famous Jan & Dean song, is fighting back, asking for an immediate appeal of a San Francisco federal court's refusal to transfer litigation over its nickname to Southern California and filing its own claims for trademark infringement against a Northern California pretender.

In October, the city's official destination marketing agency, the Huntington Beach Conference and Visitors Bureau, was sued by Noland's T-Shirts, a local merchant in Santa Cruz, who challenged the bureau's right to the famous mark. The suit was filed in Santa Cruz Superior Court in a transparent attempt to "hometown" Huntington Beach before an unfriendly local jury.

In November, the bureau removed the suit to federal court in San Francisco, but the court recently refused further attempts to dismiss or transfer the case to Southern California, stating that there were sufficient connections and witnesses in the Santa Cruz area to justify holding the suit in Northern California.

Today, the bureau took two key steps. First, it filed an answer to the Santa Cruz complaint, denying Noland's claims and making its own counterclaims that the plaintiff had engaged in trademark infringement and other violations of the bureau's rights, including trademark dilution and unfair competition.

Second, the bureau filed a motion with the court in San Francisco asking for an immediate appeal, to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, of the court's refusal to transfer the suit. Normally, a case must be completed in federal court before an appeal is permitted.

"We make this motion with great reluctance and intend no disrespect to the court," said the bureau's lead counsel, Richard Sybert of the Gordon & Rees firm. "Unfortunately, we fear it may be difficult to have a completely fair jury in a case that has been deliberately postured by the plaintiff and whipped up locally in the press as a fight between Northern and Southern California."

Suspicions are high that the suit is being guided by the rival Santa Cruz County Convention & Visitors Council, which issued a breathless press release before the case was filed and has worked hard to ride on the coattails of the Huntington Beach bureau. Although some locals claim that Santa Cruz has also been known as "Surf City," such references do not have common currency, and the town is known principally for its roller coaster and the nearby campus of the University of California.

"Santa Cruz has a little bit of a history trying to catch a wave with other people's slogans," chuckled Doug Traub, president and CEO of the Huntington Beach Conference and Visitors Bureau. "For a while, they hijacked 'Keep Austin Weird' and stuck their own name in." Traub mused that New Yorkers and Virginians may soon see "I love Santa Cruz" and "Santa Cruz is for Lovers" on T-shirts.

"All kidding aside, Santa Cruz is a cool place, but everybody knows the real Surf City is Huntington Beach," continued Traub. "If they're serious about this silly lawsuit, we have to protect our rights and the city's heritage. Our registered Surf City USA(r) mark is world-famous and stands for the Southern California beach culture we represent."

The Huntington Beach bureau registered Surf City USA as a federal trademark back in 2004, and since then has developed a vigorous licensing program and invested heavily in increasing the widespread and longtime identification of Huntington Beach as "Surf City USA."

Although Surf City USA represents the Southern California lifestyle and beach culture, surfing itself has a long history in Huntington Beach. This quintessential Southern California beach town in Orange County has become celebrated as "Surf City" in Jan & Dean's famous 1960s pop anthem and has long been emblematic of the sunny, laid-back Southern California beach culture.

In 1907, real estate and railroad magnate Henry Huntington, the man for whom Huntington Beach is named, hired Hawaiian surfer George Freeth to come to Huntington Beach and give demonstrations of the ancient Polynesian sport as a promotion for the Redondo-Los Angeles Railway. Freeth thus earned the title of "The First Man to Surf in California."

The city's first surf shop, Gordie's Surf Boards, opened its doors in the 1950s. In 1959, the first United States Surfing Championship was held in the city and was televised the next year, rocketing Huntington Beach to international fame as a surfer's paradise.

In 1963, Jan & Dean released their landmark hit single, "Surf City," and the "surf's up" image of Southern California, complete with woodies, surf wax and "two girls for every guy," was cemented into the public consciousness and became indelibly associated with Southern California. Dean Torrence, one of the group's two singers, is a local resident and now consults with the bureau.

"This song and the Surf City USA brand are all about sunshine, fun and the warm feelings you get every day in Southern California," said Torrence. "There is no better expression of that state of mind than Huntington Beach, the city I call home."

In 1990, the International Surfing Museum opened at 411 Olive Street in Huntington Beach, and the following year the city council officially adopted "Surf City" as Huntington Beach's nickname. The current licensing program is only the latest development in this historic evolution.

Huntington Beach has seven federally-registered Surf City USA trademarks for various categories of goods and services. It backs its brand with some of the finest weather on the planet, including mild summers and winters and scant rain. Huntington Beach's eight-and-a-half miles of golden sand beaches are frequented by more than 11 million visitors a year and offer a year-round home to aficionados of numerous outdoor sports from beach volleyball to bicycling to sand castle-building.

About the Huntington Beach Conference and Visitors Bureau

The Huntington Beach Conference and Visitors Bureau is the official designated marketing organization representing Huntington Beach, California. As one of the top Southern California vacation destinations featuring premier California beach resorts, Huntington Beach is the ideal location for a California family vacation, California weekend getaway or surfing trip. With eight and half miles of pristine California beaches, Huntington Beach is fast becoming a destination of choice for vacationers and business travelers alike. To plan your Surf City USA vacation or to learn more about Huntington Beach, visit the Huntington Beach Conference and Visitors Bureau Web site at or call 800-729-6232 for a free visitors guide.

The Huntington Beach Conference and Visitors Bureau logo is available at


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