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Lawsuit over use of Biltmore name begins in federal court

The Biltmore Co. began presenting it's case against Biltmore Bride Prom and Tux for trademark infringement in federal court Monday. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

The Biltmore Co. began presenting it's case against Biltmore Bride Prom and Tux for trademark infringement in federal court Monday.

Tim Rosebrock, vice president and GM of Biltmore Co., said the names Biltmore and Biltmore Estates are registered trademarks. He said the company licenses its name with a variety retailers and claims the use of Biltmore Bride causes confusion.

Summary slides were presented that showed from 1993-2016 the company made $22.5 million in licensing revenue, partnering with numerous retailers like Belk, selling a wide array of products.

According to court documents, a Yellow Pages search of the name Biltmore produced 29 businesses in the Asheville area with use of the name. One was the Biltmore Co., another was Biltmore Bride Prom and Tux, a boutique that sells gowns, prom attire and cosmetics as a Merle Norman franchise.

The documents claim the other 27 companies are not related to Biltmore Co. and do not have licensing agreements with them. The documents state Biltmore Bride Prom and Tux never used the sole name "Biltmore" on any of its products . When the initial complaint was filed, co-owner, Denise Knapp said she doesn't understand why the business was being targeted.

"We've had the name the Biltmore Bride a couple of years that we've been using it, so I just don't understand why they're so upset," Knapp said.

Biltmore Estate claimed the font and #biltmorebride are trademark infringements, cyber-piracy and unfair and deceptive trade practices. The estate claimed the dress retailer "intentionally advertises in a way that places its advertisements next to ads and posts from Biltmore."

Rosebrock said Biltmore Estates host about 400 wedding-related events a year, generating about $4 million in revenue.

Biltmore Estate gave News 13 the follow statement explaining why it filed the complaint in 2015:

"In October, we became aware that this company planned to open a new retail location using our name. We also discovered they were marketing services with a likeness to our logo and using our name in the social media space. It was evident to us that they were attempting to align that business to our company and to our reputation in the wedding industry, so we reached out to respectfully request they stop using our name. We received a response letter from their attorney indicating they refused to do so and stating they planned to proceed. As a result, we filed the complaint to seek court intervention to resolve the matter.

"A company's brand and trademarks are crucial assets for any business. As such, business owners have a right and responsibility to protect them from infringement by others. As a company, we proactively address situations where Biltmore trademarks are used in a way that conflict with our categories of business or create confusion for our customers. "

WLOS reached out to both parties, who did not wish to comment at this time.

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