In Long Island City, it is called the Battle of the Boathouses, a two-year-old court skirmish between the founder of the LIC Boathouse and the group that wrested control of it.
Erik Baard stepped down as chairman of the boathouse in 2008 and has since been sued by members of a smaller, affiliated boating group called the Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club, which later assumed control of the boathouse. The affiliation with the nonprofit Dredgers began in 2004, allowing the LIC Boathouse to accept donations and purchase insurance. Baard said the two groups were always separate and distinct.
The Dredgers sued Baard for trademark infringement, claiming Baard does not have the right to use the LIC Boathouse logo. He had used the logo on a Facebook page that disparaged the Dredgers and the way they ran the boathouse at a former meat packing plant, at 46-01 5th St.
Brooklyn Federal Judge Pamela K. Chen denied the Dredgers’ motion for summary judgment Dec.18. Baard, who is representing himself in the case, said, “The judge found that the Dredgers can’t prove ownership of the LIC Boathouse, so they can’t keep me from using the logo. The judge also said she couldn’t find any trademark infringement.”
Baard believes it helped that he was better prepared than the Dredgers, who are represented by a lawyer.
“I presented 87 exhibits of evidence, even a video of Pete Seeger asking for donations for the boathouse. They presented only four pieces of evidence and that seemed to annoy Judge Chen,” said Baard.
Representatives of the Gowanus Dredgers could not be reached for comment.
The case now moves to pretrial hearings in March, but Baard believes the hard part is over.
“If they can’t prove ownership to keep me from using the logo, I think it’s all but over,” he said.
Baard has since created another boating club called HarborLab. The club offers programs in environmental education, stewardship and restoration. It operates at a launch site on Newtown Creek and many former LIC Boathouse members joined his club, dissatisfied with the way the Dredgers run the current club.
Meanwhile, Baard has decided against counter-suing.
“To use our resources in this stupid battle is pointless,” he said, “I’ve chosen not to sue for defamation because I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in court. I want to be back on the water.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4538
©2013 Community News Group
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