Trademarked phrase, “Heart of the Yadkin Valley,” which is on the town of Jonesville’s seal and has previously been owned by the town is now in limbo as the tourism development authorities of both Elkin and Jonesville are claiming ownership.
“At this time, the Elkin Tourism Development Authority owns the trademark ‘Heart of the Yadkin Valley,’” said Joe Walker of the ETDA during the February meeting of the Jonesville TDA.
Walker and Elkin Economic Development Director Leslie Schlender were present during the meeting to extend an offer after receiving a letter.
“Registration of this trademark was inadvertently permitted to lapse,” read the letter to Schlender from trademark attorney Barbara Waite of Washington, D.C.
The JTDA became aware of the situation when town attorney Andrew Brown brought it to their attention at the regular meeting on June 27, 2017.
At that time Brown advised the JTDA board that he was unfamiliar with the trademark law and would confer with a colleague for guidance including sending the letter to Schlender and filing a formal objection to the ETDA application.
“What happened is that Joe [Walker] watches websites and trademarks and that type thing that are relevant to tourism in our area and he saw that ‘Heart of the Yadkin Valley’ trademark was allowed to lapse,” explained Jeff Eidson of the ETDA and an Elkin town commissioner.
Although the phrase is used on the Jonesville town seal and present at each meeting, because the appropriate paperwork was not filed the trademarked phrase was considered legally abandoned by Jonesville.
According to the website for the United States Patent and Trademark Office website, www.uspto.gov, forms must be filed between the fifth and sixth year of a trademark as well as in the 10th year.
It was this last step which was missed by JTDA, original holders of the trademark.
“We simply saw it as abandoned and took it as an opportunity to own a valuable trademark and use it to promote the Yadkin Valley,” explained Walker. “It has never been our desire for this to be a battle between Elkin and Jonesville over the trademark.”
“It was never our intention to steal that trademark from Jonesville, nobody’s intention ever to do that,” said Eidson. “We did want it protected, because anybody, Yadkinville, anybody could’ve filed the trademark and taken it up.
“We feel like it’s a good trademark and it should be used to promote our community and in my view our community is both sides of the river.”
“We each have unique qualities and abilities that the other does not possess,” said Walker.
Eidson, who claimed he thought he paid more property taxes in Jonesville than in Elkin, agreed.
“We’re like half a town separately and Jonesville is half of town. They got the hotels, some of the amenities and then we’ve got the downtown and we’ve got other amenities, but together we make a community and we don’t think the traveling public recognizes a difference.”
This is why the ETDA would like to combine resources as well as use of the trademark to market the combined community.
“It is our belief that together Jonesville and Elkin can grow this trademark more together than separately,” said Walker. “[The ETDA] unanimously choose to use this as an opportunity to build a better relationship with our neighbor and try to promote this area in order to improve the economy for our citizens.”
With that goal in mind, the ETDA made an offer to the JTDA for use of the contested trademark.
“Our proposal to Jonesville is that we currently own it, if we give into the opposition they have to re-file for it and our feelings are that maybe we have a little bigger staff and a little easier time maintaining the filings and all that kind of stuff,” said Eidson, “and so we’ve offered to grant them an unconditional license to use it like they never lost it and investigate ways to use it together.”
Although not involved in the trademark conflict, Jonesville Town Manager Michael Pardue already has been thinking of ways for Jonesville and Elkin to work together.
During the Feb. 7 meeting of the Yadkin Valley Rotary Club, Pardue spoke of the community created by the two towns.
“Our two communities are separated by a river, and that’s pretty much it,” said Pardue. “We’re one community here and anything that happens on one side of the river is going to affect the other side of the river.”
That’s why Pardue hoped the citizens as well as the town of Elkin would participate in a community clean-up day he hopes to implement in Jonesville.
“We want folks to take ownership and pride in the community,” stated Pardue.
“While we both should always have pride in our individual towns, we should have in mind more pride in our community,” agreed Eidson.
“People disagree, towns disagree, states disagree, nations disagree,” said Pardue. “We need to focus on where we can work together.”
Members of the Jonesville TDA declined to comment on the situation, stating they were advised by council to not speak about an ongoing legal matter.
In a recent interview, JTDA’s attorney, Brown, stated, “We waited to see if [Elkin] would withdraw the application. They didn’t withdraw the application. We filed our objection near the end of the deadline, and that’s the last formal steps we’ve taken at this point. They’re in a process called the Discovery Conference Phase.”
This is where both sides present documentation for their side of their argument and information as well as answer questions.
“At any point in the process, the parties can always talk, discuss, reach an agreement, settle things,” said Brown. “That’s the case with any type of litigation.”
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TBeanieTaylor.