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Summerfest’s latest lawsuit targets Major League Baseball team

By: Steve Schuster, [email protected]//July 15, 2023//

Summerfest’s latest lawsuit targets Major League Baseball team

By: Steve Schuster, [email protected]//July 15, 2023//

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Summerfest lawsuit
Summerfest 2023. (Staff photo by Steve Schuster)

By Steve Schuster
[email protected]

Milwaukee World Festival Inc., the parent company of Summerfest, sued the Minnesota Twins in Federal Court on Thursday in an effort to protect the festival’s trademarked name.

Summerfest, which has been trademarked for decades, is similar in name to the Twin’s festival, TC Summer Fest.

According to court documents obtained by the Wisconsin Law Journal, Milwaukee World Festival sent the Minnesota Twins a cease and desist letter last month, but the baseball team proceeded to hold its respective festival under the similar name.

Milwaukee World Festival attorneys said use of the words TC Summer Fest constitutes “a clear attempt by the Twins to trade on the longstanding and considerable goodwill developed by MWF in the Summerfest mark … this includes any use and combination of the terms ‘summer’ and ‘fest.'”

“The Twins use of TC SUMMER FEST is also likely to cause dilution by tarnishment and by harming the reputation of the SUMMERFEST Trademarks, leading to
irreparable injury to MWF,” Summerfest attorneys added, in court documents.

Despite both music festivals being held in entirely different states, attorneys for Summerfest argued in the lawsuit that having a similar name caused confusion among concertgoers and claims the following festivals which are located beyond 100 miles from Milwaukee are considered direct competitors, according to court documents.

Claimed competitors of Summerfest: Windy City Smoke Out, Lyrical Lemonade, Pitchfork, Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Coachella, Outside Lands and Austin City Limits 


Summerfest lawsuit

TC Summer Fest started Friday and includes some of the same headliners as Summerfest,  including the band Imagine Dragons, The Killers, and The Flaming Lips.

Milwaukee World Festival attorneys are demanding that the Minnesota Twins stop using the words “Summer Fest,” give up any internet domain names using the term, pay damages and attorneys fees.

According to court documents, the Minnesota festival was previously called Summer Jam, but that ended in 2022. The Minnesota Twins and Mankato promoter Jerry Braam are hosting TC Summer Fest in 2023.

According to court documents, just in the past year Milwaukee World Festival Inc. has attempted to prevent 32 other entities attempting to utilize the “Summerfest” trademarked name. As a result, more than half have agreed to not use the trademarked name. About one-third of the 32 entities who received cease and desist letters have now entered into license agreements with Milwaukee World Festival, which include payment of royalties. To date, a handful of other cases where the words “Summer” and “Fest” were used could result in lawsuits.

Also according to court documents, the non-profit Milwaukee World Festival made $60 million in gross profits last year.

In the present legal matter, Attorneys Sherry Dawn Coley and Tiffany Woelfe with the law offices of Amundsen Davis LLC represent Milwaukee World Festival.

According to court documents, Milwaukee World Festival attorneys argue, “this Court has subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1338, 15 U.S.C. § 1121(a), which authorize district courts to hear civil actions arising under Acts of Congress related to trademarks and the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1051 et seq. 84.”

Summerfest, which claims it is the “World’s largest Music Festival,” has been no stranger to ligation. In fact, according to court records obtained by the Wisconsin Law Journal, Milwaukee World Festival has been the plaintiff or defendant or garnishee in dozens of lawsuits in both Circuit Court and Federal Court, as recently as 2022.

Summerfest lawsuit


Summerfest lawsuit


Summerfest lawsuit

In 2019, Summerfest sued Flannery’s Pub for failing to make a vendor commission payment. Summerfest was awarded nearly $15,000.

In June of 2022, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Summerfest truly is “world’s largest music festival” as noted by the Guinness World Records back in 1999.

However, BBC News reported back in 2018 that Donauinselfest (German for “Danube Island Festival”) a free open-air music festival which occurs annually at Donauinsel in Vienna, Austria, had more than 3.3 million in attendance in 2015.

In comparison, below are the total attendance numbers for Summerfest.

  • 2023 – 624,407
  • 2022 – 445,611
  • 2021 – 409,386
  • 2020 – cancelled
  • 2019 – 718,144
  • 2018 – 766,192
  • 2017 – 831, 769
  • 2016 – 804,116
  • 2015 – 772,000

In 2008, 1.2 million attended the Mawazine music festival in Morocco. In comparison,  831,024 attended Summerfest in 2008.

The Montreal International Jazz Festival holds the 2004 Guinness World Record as the world’s largest jazz festival, which had nearly 2 million attendees. 

The Wisconsin Law Journal reached out to Summerfest for comment, but to date no response has been received.


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