Medieval Times has sued the union representing its employees at a New Jersey castle, alleging it has infringed on the dinner-theater chain’s trademark.
In its lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court, Medieval Times said the union, the American Guild of Variety Artists, had created “consumer confusion” by allowing workers to use the name “Medieval Times Performers United.”
The company claims the union is “threatening the established goodwill of Medieval Times” by including the chain’s name and medieval-themed imagery in its name and logo.
“The elements featured in the Medieval Times Performers Logo (i.e., castle, swords, old script style text) all resemble elements of Medieval Times’s branding and middle ages-themed décor, which are clearly meant to evoke Medieval Times’ unique image,” the company said in its lawsuit.
Medieval Times could not be reached for comment.
The union said in a statement that the lawsuit was “frivolous” and meant to intimidate employees who are trying to organize. The union may choose to file charges with the National Labor Relations Board arguing that the lawsuit itself violates workers’ rights.
“It is a grotesque attempt to retaliate against workers for exercising their legally protected right to form a union and bargain collectively. But it will fail,” the AGVA said. “It will not only embolden Medieval Times’ employees at its New Jersey castle to fight harder for a fair contract, it will inspire the employees at its other castles across the county to organize and do the same.”
Medieval Times has nine castles in the U.S. and one in Canada. Knights, squires, stablehands and actors at Medieval Times’ Lyndhurst, New Jersey, location became the company’s first to organize in July, when they voted 26 to 11 in favor of unionizing. Workers at a Medieval Times in Buena Park, California, have also petitioned for a union election that has not yet been scheduled.
“They treat a lot of the professionally trained actors like anybody can do this job. They treat a lot of the stablehands like we’re fully replaceable,” one worker told HuffPost earlier this year.
“It is a grotesque attempt to retaliate against workers for exercising their legally protected right to form a union.”
Medieval Times opposed the union effort and hired an anti-union consultant in New Jersey at the cost of $3,200 per day, plus expenses. The union has filed unfair labor practice charges against the company, alleging management has violated workers’ collective bargaining rights.
With its new lawsuit, the company alleges that the union’s moniker creates the “impression” that the union is “officially affiliated with Medieval Times.”
“Despite wholly adopting the Medieval Times Mark as well as many Medieval Times-adjacent elements in its branding and marketing, Medieval Times Performers makes no attempt to disclaim any affiliation with Medieval Times by way of a disclaimer on the Medieval Times Performers Website or otherwise,” the company claims.
Medieval Times claims the union’s imagery “could lead to the mistaken impression” that the union is “somehow endorsed” by the company itself.
Many workers have been organizing new unions lately under a variation of the “united” theme. Some examples are Starbucks Workers United, Trader Joe’s United and Home Depot Workers United.
To HuffPost’s knowledge, none of those companies have sued the worker organizations for alleged trademark infringement.
This story has been updated with comment from the AGVA.