ENCINITAS — Fewer communities across the country have a stronger attachment to their name than the residents in the northwest quadrant of town have to the name of their community — Leucadia.
For years, locals have proudly worn shirts and waved banners that read “Keep Leucadia Funky,” an effort to keep the laid-back, surf town vibe with which Leucadia is synonymous.
So, when a company sent letters to several shops and groups in town — one of which pioneered the “Keep Leucadia Funky” T-shirt — saying that it alone had the rights to the name “Leucadia,” the town erupted.
“Leucadia has always been a crazy town and people get riled up about stuff, but I’ve never seen anything like this,” said JP St. Pierre, a longtime Leucadian who owns Surfy Surfy surfboard shop in town. “People were coming in bright red with steam coming out of their ears.”
The company behind the cease-and-desist letters, Flashbuz, registered the town’s name with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2016 for a clothing line branded Leucadia.
A brand counsel and manager with the company issued a statement Oct. 2, calling the cease and desist letters “a simple mistake with a swift correction,” and said that they have all been rescinded.
But the community is not letting it go, as they see the very act of trademarking the town’s name as unacceptable. A group of residents, including St. Pierre, is rallying to have the trademark revoked.
The saga started in mid-September, when Ryan Shatto, owner of Shatto and Sons Custom T-Shirts, received a letter from the company telling them to cease and desist use of Leucadia on its merchandise.
Ryan’s father Jim started making the Leucadia T shirts in 1975, including the iconic “Keep Leucadia Funky” shirt with the silhouette of a Volkswagen bus with surfboards on top.
Ryan said that he soon learned that Shatto and Sons wasn’t alone, and that several other shops along Leucadia’s main drag, Coast Highway 101, were also hit with the same letter.
“I was pretty surprised, we were just settling another lawsuit and then we got this,” Shatto said, referring to a spate of Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuits that several businesses along Coast Highway 101 received. “I was pretty angry, and my dad was definitely angry about it. Just, the nerve that they would have to do that.
“Just to think of the fact that the town I grew up in and have this business in, which my family has had since 1975 in the same location, for someone to tell me I can no longer use the word “Leucadia” on apparel, it was pretty upsetting to say the least,” Shatto said.
Shatto reached out to St. Pierre, who did not receive a letter, but St. Pierre said he was distraught by the entire episode. He and friends put information on social media, and the vitriol quickly spread through Facebook, Nextdoor and other sites.
“When you think of a town and its name, everyone adopts the name, local businesses adopt it,” St. Pierre said. “And in Leucadia, it’s heightened. If you ask someone from Leucadia where they are from, they don’t say “Encinitas,” they said “Leucadia.”
“So to have someone trademark it, it was shocking, we were like, ‘Wait, you can’t do that. It belongs to all of us,’” St. Pierre said. “I think people like to think that our town is much more than a T-shirt brand. And the sentiment was that these guys were trying to co-opt the culture or monetize the culture, which has been more a public domain, common good and a sense of community. To me, it was really selfish, cynical and blatantly disrespectful to attempt such a thing.”
Leucadia 101 Main Street Association also received a letter around Sept. 18, Executive Director Kellie Hinze said. The group, which promotes Leucadia’s business district, quickly reached out to a local attorney who reached out to the company.
She said that the company quickly changed its tune when they realized Leucadia 101 was a nonprofit group, and even attempted to provide Leucadia merchandise.
“In a separate email, they said ‘we actually make merchandise, we can do that for you, but by that point it was too late,’” Hinze said. “We might have considered it, but to put us on notice and then to ask for our business, was unsettling.”
Chase, who is brand counsel for the Leucadia brand, which is owned by Encinitas-based Flashbuz, said that the entire incident was the result of a distribution company of the Leucadia merchandise, who demanded the company issue the letters after representatives saw the local Leucadia shirts being worn at this summer’s Leucadia ArtWalk.
In the cease and desist order, Chase said that companies using the Leucadia name diluted the value of the company’s brand, which prompted the legal notices.
“Like many other clothiers with popular names matching locations such as Hollister® or Patagonia®, it is not uncommon to investigate infringing apparel manufacturers,” Chase wrote in the Oct. 2 prepared statement. “Unfortunately, our team served such notice on two local vendors due to misinformation. Once the error was discovered, the orders were rescinded and apologies made. It was misdirected.
“We are locally owned by Flashbuz and employ local designers for local artistic collaborations.
Our owners; Flashbuz manage many brands and are the ongoing anchor sponsor of the Cardiff
Soccer Club (Mustangs),” the statement continues. “We recognize the value of local philanthropy, especially for kids.
“It was a simple mistake with a swift correction. No harm done,” the statement continues. “We are proud to build a local, reputable brand under the name Leucadia®, here in Leucadia and never wished to disrupt another local vendor.”
St. Pierre said the bell can’t simply be un-rung with an apology. He and a group of business owners said they will see revocation based on the grounds that a town’s name cannot be trademarked.
“Any of us could have trademarked this 25, 30 years ago, but I don’t think anyone I know thinks that way,” St. Pierre said. “The town is part of people’s identities and the fabric and essence of their lives.”