"Baywatch Hawaii" stars Brooke Burns and Michael
Bergin pose at a Waikiki lifeguard station. The producer
of the syndicated TV series has filed a lawsuit, claiming
that local businesses have attempted to cash in on the
sues Hawaii entrepreneurs
The lawsuit accuses businessesBy Mary Adamski
of trying to cash in on
the term 'Baywatch'
Four local entrepreneurs who got on the "Baywatch" bandwagon as soon as the television series committed to film in Hawaii have been sued by the show's producer.
The Baywatch Production Co. asked the federal court for an injunction against the businessmen who registered Baywatch trade names with the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. The California company also seeks to collect three times the profits each has earned from the Baywatch name in damages.
"I registered the name, obviously before they registered the name," said Larry Rutkowski of Pearl City, who registered Baywatch Hawaii on April 5. That was the first business day after Gov. Ben Cayetano announced that the series had agreed to come to the islands and would add Hawaii to its name.
His application said he would use the trade name for T-shirts, sports and water wear and "local type products for local, national and world sales" including marketing on the Internet.
Rutkowski, a self-employed small businessman, said he has received "threatening letters" from the television show's California and local attorneys and has ignored them.
"The first guy wrote me that I was exploiting Baywatch," Rutkowski said. "I was going to write back 'Baywatch' is exploiting Hawaii.
"They're telling me, a person of Hawaiian ancestry, that I am exploiting "Baywatch Hawaii.' Don't tell me that. They're using the name because Hawaii sells," Rutkowski said.
Also in line at the state business registration division April 5 were Darrell Young of Pearl City, registering Baywatch Adventures Hawaii as a travel and tour business, and Thomas E. Caprio of Honolulu, who filed to use Hawaii Baywatch Calendar Girls as a business to produce T-shirts, calendars and posters. Caprio returned later to also register Aloha Baywatch Calendar Girls.
M. Ayman El-Dakhakhni, president of Comprehensive Health and Attitude Management Programs Inc., has registered a total of 10 titles. He claimed Baywatch Wear, Baywatch Fashion, Baywatch Design, Baywatch Tours and Baywatch Cafe on April 5, then returned to register Baywatch Hawaii Tours, Baywatch Hawaii Wear, Baywatch Hawaii Fashion, Baywatch Hawaii Design and Baywatch Hawaii Cafe. El-Dakhakhni could not be reached for comment.
The suit filed by Watanabe Ing & Kawashima law firm, affirms that the television production company has registered the show's name and logo of the sun setting behind a lifeguard stand with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The patents are for purposes of entertainment and commerce including use on photographs, wristwatches, sunglasses, keychains, various items of clothing, toys, bags and backpacks, cologne and other retail items.
It claims that the local businesses' use of the name will "cause confusion, mistake or deception among the general public within the state ... as well as cause dilution of the distinctive quality of plaintiff's Baywatch mark."
Rutkowski said he has not yet made or tried to sell any "Baywatch Hawaii" items.
The suit also names Carmen Gapusan, identified as Young's business partner, and John Does whose uses of the name have not been traced yet.
It charges deceptive trade practices, unfair competition and misappropriation in addition to violation of the federal law prohibiting trade mark infringement.