Battle over 269 trademark is over; parties mum on settlement details

Discover Kalamazoo and Southwest Michigan First have settled their trademark dispute over the use of "269" as a branding tool.

Discover Kalamazoo and the Southwest Michigan First Corporation have settled their differences over the use of 269, dropping dueling lawsuits over federal trademark infringements.

The two organizations “have resolved their trademark dispute to their mutual satisfaction, in a manner that respects the missions of both organizations,” according a one-paragraph written announcement on the settlement. The announcement was signed by Greg Ayers, president and chief executive officer of Discover Kalamazoo and Ron Kitchens, chief executive officer of Southwest Michigan First Corporation.

Ayers, contacted Thursday, said Discover Kalamazoo is "excited that we reached this resolution." However, he declined to provide details on the agreement, saying that both sides agreed to keep the details confidential.

Newschannel 3 was unable to reach Kitchens, but a spokeswoman for Southwest Michigan confirmed that a settlement had been reached and that the organization would have no further comment.

Neither organization would answer the question of whether the 269 Magazine, published by Southwest Michigan First and at the heart the of dispute, would continue publishing and if so under what name.

However, on their websites, both organizations are still using the number, but in different variations that include a TM trademark notice.

Discover Kalamazoo is using the TM notice at the end of the phrase "269 Things to Do In Area Code 269," and with (269).

Southwest Michigan First is using the TM notice at the end of its magazine title "269 Magazine."

It was the publication of that magazine title “269” that put the dispute before a federal judge in April 2017, when Discover Kalamazoo claimed the title -- a use of the area's telephone area code -- was a trademark infringement. Discover Kalamazoo, which serves as a marketing arm for the Kalamazoo County Convention and Visitors Bureau, argued that it had been using 269 as a logo and marketing tool since 2010 and that the bureau spent considerable resources developing it as a brand. That use included an annual publication of "269 Things To Do in Area Code 269."

Southwest Michigan First began using 269 as the title for a regional, bi-monthly magazine introduced in early 2016, but had in late 2015 filed an application to register the mark, 269 Magazine, with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Discover Kalamazoo officials have said that before filing the lawsuit, they attempted to negotiate an agreement with Southwest Michigan First for its use of 269 for the magazine, but the two parties were unable at that time to come to an agreement.

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