The first-ever Long Beach Food Scene Week is now in full swing—but the lead-up to the event wasn’t necessarily smooth.

After marketing the multi-day celebration of Long Beach cuisine as “Long Beach Restaurant Week” for months, organizers abruptly changed the event’s name earlier this month due to a public and legal conflict over who is able to use the phrase, “Long Beach Restaurant Week.”

The change came after Terri Henry, a well-known name in the Long Beach food world, sent a cease-and-desist notice to the event’s organizers, Brian Addison and Hazel Quimpo, on Aug. 1, claiming prior use to the Long Beach Restaurant Week name. (Addison is a former food writer for the Long Beach Post.)

Henry began promoting a Long Beach Restaurant Week in 2014, with former business partner Elizabeth Borsting. In all those years, Henry never filed to trademark the name. But that changed after Addison and Quimpo announced in April that they would be organizing their own Long Beach Restaurant Week.

Henry filed an application on May 5 to trademark Long Beach Restaurant Week, as well as other restaurant weeks she’s been a part of organizing: Long Beach Black Restaurant Week, Long Beach Cambodian Restaurant Week and Long Beach Burger Week.

Even though the application is still under review, attorney Ryan Ostrowski of The Hakala Law Group—an intellectual property attorney who does not represent either party—said prior use of the name would likely give a much stronger case for an ability to lay claim.

“Trademark law in the United States is first in time, first in right,” Ostrowski said. That means the first person to actually be using a mark has the presumed priority, unless someone could prove they used it before them.

Ostrowski also spoke to the importance of a trademark—and why it makes sense for Henry to try to protect her use of the name.

A trademark is intended to protect intellectual property like a recognizable design, expression, or mark, and how it’s used or displayed to the public. When someone attaches the expression with a source, like “just do it” will always be attached to the Nike brand, “they become accustomed to the quality and workmanship of that,” Ostrowski said. “It’s very important to protect.”

‘Strictly a business decision’

For many people who are familiar with the Long Beach restaurant world, Henry has become synonymous with various restaurant weeks.

While Henry has split from her former business partner, they have co-existed for years doing events at different times of the year. In the past few years, Henry pivoted to more specific cuisine-focused restaurant weeks that she spends hours planning and promoting, including Black Restaurant Week and Cambodian Restaurant Week.

And it seems people associate her with the phrase “Long Beach Restaurant Week,” as well. When Addison and Quimpo announced Long Beach Restaurant Week, Henry said she got an onslaught of texts from people asking her what was going on.

“It was strictly a business decision,” Henry said of her decision to trademark the name. “I’m protecting my assets. Any good business person would.”

Still, the concept of a restaurant week is nothing new. The idea first started more than 30 years ago, as a way to boost the restaurant industry in 1992 during the Democratic National Convention held in New York. Tim Zagat (of the Zagat survey, a restaurant rating guide) and New York restauranteur Joseph Baum created the event to offer special multi-course prix-fixe meals at lunch time for one week, and most importantly, make them cheap.

They’ve blossomed across the country and the globe ever since, including in Long Beach, to highlight and support particular types of restaurants.

New branding

Rather than fight the cease-and-desist, Addison and Quimpo decided to change the event’s name to Long Beach Food Scene Week, after Addison’s private Facebook group, which was created to discuss food-related things in and around Long Beach.

The Facebook group, which has just over 50,000 members, is managed by Addison, who approves what posts are allowed and can block or remove members.

“We received the cease-and-desist after we had already done our printed materials and we don’t have that much money yet,” Quimpo said. “Would I like to hire a lawyer and fight for it? Heck yeah, that would be amazing. Can I and do I think that’s a wise use of my money at this point? No.”

On Aug. 5, Addison and Quimpo posted in the group about the change, stating, “while it is unfortunate someone would want to shut down an event that celebrates our local restaurants—over 30 restaurants, many with special menus, blatantly disregarded by this person in the cheap name of shouting rights—we are proud of what we’ve achieved and are moving forward.”

He added at the end of the post, “since her lawyer required it: We are not in any way, form, or fashion associated with Terri Henry Marketing.”

Addison also alluded to Henry’s use of the n-word earlier this year, which she apologized for. He also accused her of using her restaurants weeks as “a cash cow.”

Facebook analytics showed the post reached over 18,000 people in just three hours. Six days later, the post had 1,400 reacts and over 270 comments.

Henry had been blocked by Addison for several years from the group unrelated to this incident, Addison said, and could not respond in the group.

“It was frustrating because all I saw was this one-sided conversation which I could not respond to and I could not share my side of the story and what I deemed as facts,” Henry said.

Henry posted a response three days later on her nonprofit organization Dine LBC‘s page, which she also posted in Facebook community groups. Her post said, “I’m a supporter of Long Beach restaurants in any way they can be promoted and never once requested that they shut down their event. But business is business, and I felt the same-named event would cause confusion among consumers.”

In an interview, she refuted the accusation that she was turning anything into a cash cow, saying she didn’t charge Black restaurant owners to participate the first year in Black Restaurant Week and charged only $100 the second year to cover marketing costs.

Addison and Quimpo, meanwhile, said they haven’t charged any restaurants to be a part of Long Beach Food Scene Week, although they acknowledge they’ve accepted money from restaurants that offered to pay for marketing costs, because the event is part of Longbeachize, which is the marketing arm of their newly formed company District 10 Collective.

“The force to re-brand was kind of serendipitous,” Addison said. “I love my group, they’re really active and really engaged, and this allows them to have some ownership over it.”

As far as the trademark process goes, if the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office agrees to register Henry’s trademarks (the office is months behind in reviewing applications), it would be up to Henry to license the phrase for use—which could create more disputes, as some business owners associated with Black Restaurant Week and Cambodian Restaurant Week have expressed a desire for members of those communities to take the lead.

“There’s no obligation for [a person] to license it,” attorney Brad Hakala of The Hakala Law Group said. “It’s really up to the owning party of that trademark if they want to let anybody else use it.”

Addison and Quimpo, though, appear to be leaning into the “Food Scene” branding.

The business partners are planning two more events, Long Beach Food Scene Picnic in November, a food festival with solely Long Beach food and craft vendors, and Long Beach Food Scene Last Call, a celebration of bars and breweries in the city. Those upcoming announcements can be found here.