City threatens to sue Queen Mary nonprofit over alleged trademark infringement

A nonprofit group that’s working to raise funds to help restore the Queen Mary could face a lawsuit from the city of Long Beach if it doesn’t stop using the ship’s name and iconic image, the Post has learned.

The nonprofit QMI Restore the Queen launched a fundraising campaign in October following a string of critical reports on the ship’s deteriorating condition. The campaign, called Project Royal Rivets, aims to be the city’s first community-driven funding source for repairs and renovations.

Mary Rohrer, a community outreach coordinator for the nonprofit, said she was arranging to meet with city staffers regarding the next steps for the campaign when she received a cease and desist letter from a city-hired lawyer regarding trademark infringement.

The letter, from Los Angeles-based lawyer Vern Schooley, warned the nonprofit against using the ship’s name and image in its fundraising material without first obtaining city approval.

“The city has invested millions of dollars in maintaining the quality of services rendered in connection with the ship and its reputation,” the letter said. “The mark Queen Mary is closely associated with the city of Long Beach and its promotion of good will associated with the mark and ship, leading to national and international recognition of the mark as identifying the ship and the many services associated therewith.”

In an interview Friday, Schooley said it’s in the city’s best interest to protect its trademark of the Queen Mary’s name and likeness to prevent others from using it for profit.

He said the campaign material suggests that the city is directly involved with the fundraising effort, which is misleading.

“The key would be if they wanted to raise funds for the ship they should first come up with some kind of agreement with the city or those who control the Queen Mary,” he said.

Rohrer said she’s disappointed that the city would take such action, but she still plans to continue fundraising.

“It’s just absolutely reckless that they’ll spend money with some attorney firm to try to scare us when all we’re trying to do is raise money for the ship,” she said. “I don’t get it.”

Support our journalism.

Hyperlocal news is an essential force in our democracy, but it costs money to keep an organization like this one alive, and we can’t rely on advertiser support alone. That’s why we’re asking readers like you to support our independent, fact-based journalism. We know you like it—that’s why you’re here. Help us keep hyperlocal news alive in Long Beach.

Kelly Puente is an award-winning general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. She has worked as a journalist in Long Beach since 2006, covering everything from education and crime to courts and breaking news. Kelly previously worked at the Long Beach Press-Telegram and the Orange County Register before joining the Post in 2018. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected].