Defendant Agrees to Tear Down and Rebuild Chapel to Remove Distinctive Features
Wayfarers Chapel, a Rancho Palos Verdes church, sued Malibu wedding chapel Calamigos Ranch on trademark and trade dress infringement grounds, as well as unfair competition. Interestingly, Wayfarers Chapel alleged in their complaint dated January 25, 2023 that the defendants copied the “distinctive architectural trade dress of the chapel itself.”
According to the complaint, the distinctive elements included a “circular altar” design and double-stemmed “Y-shaped” mullions in the side glass walls of the chapel (see images below). Wayfarers Chapel owns U.S. Service Mark Registration No. 6817479 for the Wayfarers Chapel Trade Dress, which covers the design of the chapel.
Wayfarers Chapel’s logo, which has been in use since 1979, depicts the distinctive look of the venue, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. The lawsuit also alleges trademark infringement of this logo in Calamigos’ advertising and internet presence.
The chapel is a popular spot for weddings and other events, Wayfarers Chapel claims, in large part because of its unique look and marketing to that effect. The lawsuit noted a number of instances where consumers confused the two venues—including a national beer commercial filmed at Calamigos that led to inquiries at Wayfarer’s Chapel.
On Nov. 17, 2023, U.S. District Court Judge Hernán Vera issued a Consent Judgment indicating the parties had reached an agreement regarding entry of judgment in favor of Plaintiffs and against Defendants. The judgment included a permanent injunction prohibiting Calamigos from using Wayfarers Chapel trade dress and trademarks knowing that “[t]his will require a structural teardown and rebuild of the Calamigos Ranch chapel.”
Calamigos may not have considered or expected being sued for using a particular architectural design in its chapel, and maybe was wholly unaware that architectural designs can be protected as trade dress and in related trademarks. In any event, downtime due to renovations at a wedding chapel is likely a substantial business interruption. So be wary of the space you are creating because when it comes to an architectural design, infringement could lead to an unexpected renovation.