In an opinion today, Judge McMahon preliminary enjoined a company called Matinee from using the phrase and logo “NYC Pride” to promote events that compete with those of the plaintiff, Heritage, the organizer of the LGBT’s community’s annual gay pride march and rally, which are scheduled for later this month. Matinee’s competing events include a performance by Azealia Banks, a singer who was heavily criticized for making allegedly homophobic comments directed at blogger Perez Hilton, and Judge McMahon found that Heritage would be irreparably harmed by the potential of being wrongly associated with the Banks controversy:
Heritage has invested substantial effort into New York’s Pride Week events over the past 30 years, and has amassed substantial goodwill and a very favorable reputation during this time. That favorable reputation is grounded in large measure on its avoidance of controversy and on keeping the goodwill of all constituencies within the very diverse LGBT community. Indeed, controversy is antithetical to the organization’s mission, which is to support and celebrate a set of historically disenfranchised minority groups. Defendants . . . are, by contrast, content to generate controversy. They have done so by selecting Azealia Banks to headline their principal concert event. This has caused prominent members of the LGBT community—including individuals who cover that community in the press—to criticize NYC PRIDE. Heritage has submitted several affidavits from its corporate sponsors indicating that controversy might cause them to reevaluate their relationship with Heritage, since they value the organization’s “superb record” of delivering “quality events and advancing the cause of equal rights for the LGBT community.” Admittedly, those same sponsors appear to have had little difficulty sponsoring Los Angeles’ Gay Pride celebration—at which Azealia Banks appeared (and, according to internet reports, apologized for the remark than engendered the controversy)—so it would be difficult to infer that sponsors will cut their ties to Heritage and Pride Week. But it is not difficult to infer that NYC PRIDE’s corporate sponsors are paying good money to affiliate themselves with the slate of events put on by Heritage during Pride Week in New York City—indeed, that is the tenor of their testimony. Heritage’s sponsors value their association with an organization that they believe “enhances our clients’ reputations within the LGBT community and helps demonstrate clients’ commitments to equality for LGBT people.” It does not take a genius to intuit that controversy is anathema to advertisers; we see it in the marketplace every day. Any prospective loss of goodwill from controversy surrounding a performer wrongly believed to be sponsored by Heritage supports a finding of irreparable harm.