Attorneys litigating over Miami’s Ultra Music Festival expect more legal action in the United States and the European Union despite verdicts reached in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
Peter Valori, partner at Miami law firm Damian & Valori and legal counsel to Worldwide Entertainment — the branch of Ultra Enterprises responsible for licensing the festival’s trademark to foreign production companies — told the Daily Business Review that there are plans to request a motion for judgment as a matter of law following the verdict.
A final judgment dated Sept. 24 said the jury awarded $866,000 in damages to Adria, a Croatia-based production company formerly responsible for facilitating Ultra Europe, on a count of tortious interference. The jury also assigned zero damages to a claim that Worldwide was in breach of a contract with Adria.
Read the judgment against Ultra Miami for tortious interference:
The tortious interference award is offset in part by a judgment on a counterclaim by Worldwide against Adria MM for breach of contract, which generated a $366,000 award to Worldwide.
Worldwide’s lawyers said they planned to ask the court to dismiss the tortious interference claim as a matter of law, arguing there was insufficient evidence to support the jury verdict.
“That claim related to Worldwide Entertainment Groups’ assertion of its retake rights after Adria MM breached the promotional agreement,” Valori said, referring to the allegation against his client by Adria that Worldwide sabotaged the Croatian company’s ability to conduct business. Valori said that opposing counsel argued that Worldwide took its actions — which were hastened by their assertion that Adria was in breach of contract — too soon in light of a pre-existing agreement for Adria to produce the 2017 edition of Ultra Europe.
Opposing counsel “didn’t prove any damages — they did not present to the court or to the jury evidence that they were damaged by Worldwide’s actions to retake the festival and protect the ticket holders,” Valori said. “We’re asking the court to rule on that claim as a matter of law; there was insufficient evidence of damages as to that claim upon which the jury could make that finding.”
While one lawyer for Adria MM says they expect the award to hold up, they agree with Worldwide’s counsel on one thing — the litigation is not over.
Yano Rubinstein of San Francisco law firm Rubinstein Law likewise told the DBR that Adria MM — for whom he served as lead counsel — anticipates filing additional legal action as well.
“We are planning on submitting a motion for attorney fees and costs as the prevailing party because the initial contract calls for attorney fees to be awarded to the prevailing party in any dispute arising as a result of the contract,” Rubinstein said. “That will happen within the next 10 days.”
Rubinstein said also that Worldwide had indicated it plans to file a notice of appeal, a motion that has to be entered within 30 days of judgment. He also said Worldwide and Adria are still at odds over the ownership and use of the Ultra trademark and related iconography (such as the festival’s logo, a mash-up of the letter U and a power button) to promote Ultra branded events in Europe.
Both parties filed to register the use of the Ultra trademark in Europe after filing their respective suits in Miami; Adria filed in the Croatian State Intellectual Property Office and Worldwide filed in the European Union Intellectual Property Office.
“However, Adria MM has been granted exclusive rights to use the ‘U’ symbol in Croatia and so there is additional litigation against the new festival promoters for Ultra Europe in Croatia preventing them branding with the ‘U,’ ” Rubinstein said. He added that there may be further litigation in the United States outside of the Southern District of Florida concerning the use of the Ultra trademark in Europe.
On Sept. 21, a federal jury handed in verdicts that were favorable and adverse to both the Miami musical colossus as well as the Croatia-based production company. Adria had been locked in legal conflict with Worldwide after suing them in May 2017 for purportedly sabotaging the company’s ability to conduct the 2017 edition of Ultra Europe under a five-year agreement.
Worldwide filed a countersuit in response alleging several counts against Adria including breach of contract, misappropriation of trade secrets under Florida’s Uniform Trade Secrets Act and several counts of trademark infringement.
U.S. District Judge Federico A. Moreno in Miami entered final judgments against Worldwide and Adria pursuant to the jury’s verdict. The jury found Worldwide engaged in tortious interference against Adria by instructing ticket vendors not to allocate sales from the 2017 edition of Ultra Europe to the smaller production company.
Adria alleged Worldwide’s actions violated their five-year agreement, as they were still under contractual obligation to produce the 2017 edition of Ultra Europe, and relied on ticket sales to offset various costs. Additionally, the jury also found that both Adria and Worldwide had committed breaches of contract. Adria was ordered to award $366,211 to Worldwide in damages, while Worldwide was found to owe no money.
Read the final judgment against Adria for breach of contract:
Both sides indicated they plan to continue litigation over use of the Ultra brand in Europe.
Valori said his client Worldwide has “superior rights” to Ultra trademarks in Europe “pursuant to provisions of the 2012 contract.”
“We also have superior rights because we filed first in the European Union … and Croatia belongs to the European Union,” Valori said. “Ours was filed first and we expect it to be granted because … it’s assigned to us under the [original] promotional agreement.”
But Rubinstein said that although Adria’s allegation that Worldwide had committed fraud — because of an alleged lack of a registered Ultra trademark in Europe at the time of the 2012 agreement — was unadjudicated, Worldwide’s position in his view was “not … sustainable.”