Boston Urban Iditarod Legally Forced to Change Its Name
The people that own the rights to the Alaskan dog sled races claim it could confuse participants.
The name of a popular race through the streets of Boston has officially gone to the dogs.
A firm representing the iconic Alaskan Iditarod Trail sled dog races sent the creators of the annual Boston Urban Iditarod, a parody of the actual event, a cease and desist, claiming the title of their race infringes on the Iditarod Trail Committee’s trademarked name.
“Federal and state trademark law prohibits the unauthorized use of [the Iditarod Trail Committee’s] mark, or any variation of that mark, in a manner that is likely to cause confusion, or in a manner that ‘dilutes’ the mark by impairing its distinctiveness or which harms its reputation” a letter to the organizers of the Boston event said.
The Boston Urban Iditarod, which is loosely based on the Alaskan dog sled races, replaces the animals with people and the sleds with shopping carts. Participants dress up in extravagant outfits following a theme, and race through the city from bar to bar, competing in various events along the way.
Tim Jones, one of the two cofounders of the Boston Urban Iditarod, which has been going on in the city for the last four years, said the whole thing has been “incredibly frustrating.”
“Basically, it’s completely ridiculous. It’s just me and another guy, and we run it for fun, and to raise donations for the Boston Medical Center food pantry,” he said. “Obviously we aren’t going to go to court over this stuff.”
So they simply changed the name. The race will now be known as the “Boston Urban Idiotorama.”
“They have a ton of money and huge lawyers. It’s unfortunate we had to change our race name, because I like the name Iditarod for our event,” said Jones. “At the end of the day, does it matter? No, I guess not. But it’s frustrating to feel like you’ve been bullied around.”
Jones said he received the cease and desist letter from the firm representing the Iditarod Trail Committee on January 21, just weeks before his race is set to hit the streets.
“They just didn’t want shopping carts and foolishness to be associated with their grand race that’s going on. I’m not saying it’s not an amazing race, but no one in Boston knows what the Alaskan one is. It’s very laughable—except for when you get a sizeable legal document like that is thrown in your face,” he said.
The name change will mean a few things for Jones and co-founder Kevin Doran; they will have to change their Facebook page, Twitter account, and website to match the new moniker associated with the event. And moving ahead, all of their merchandise for the day of the race will have to bear a different title.
Luckily, Jones said, event organizers haven’t sent out their order for apparel and other items associated with the old name, and they will be able to have the updated Boston Urban Idiotorama title on their signage come March.
“Thankfully we were about to start ordering stuff for the race. It’s a month out from the race, and we were just about to start ordering so we had time to start changing stuff,” said Jones.
Race organizers are expecting upwards of 700 costumed participants for this years Idiotorama, making up roughly 120 teams. Jones said he’s staying positive despite the legal setback, as the urban adventure fast approaches.
“We are doing this as a side hobby that we enjoy doing. I don’t want to get negative on this, and legal issues would be a drain,” he said.
Jones said similar cease-and-desist letters were sent to other races around the country, including New York and Chicago, where the events have been held for close to a decade.