Orlando-based promoter Dean Reinke, who’s partnering with Palm Coast to put on the Jan. 23 half-marathon in the city, has yet another court battle on his hands.
The small city of Joplin, in western Missouri, on Friday filed a request in federal district court for a preliminary injunction against Reinke to bar him from using the “Mother Road Marathon” name and marketing the 2011 event under that banner. The city was a partner with Reinke for the marathon’s inaugural just last October 10. The event took place on Route 66 through Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri. Then Joplin had a falling out with Reinke. The city is now claiming the “Mother Road Marathon” naming right and pursuing its own race. In an answer to the complaint in federal court by Reinke’s attorney on Dec. 10, Reinke claimed both he and the City of Joplin “have applied for a trademark for the name ‘Mother Road Marathon’ and the MRM logo with the United States Patent and Trademark Office and said applications are pending but no determination has been made as to which party will be entitled to the trademark.”
“We own that event,” Reinke said in an interview with FlaglerLive.
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Joplin is far from the only problem Reinke has encountered on his marathon roads. He faces a lawsuit from Purdue University over his use of Purdue’s name without the university’s permission for a race in Indiana earlier this year. He was originally planning to stage a marathon along the university’s streets and those of Lafayette and West Lafayette. All three entities had a falling out with him, forcing Reinke to move the half-marathon to a small town further east. That town has misgivings over the race, too, as did runners who’d registered to run because of Purdue’s name, along Purdue’s streets, and were not refunded their money. Reinke said there is a no-refund policy in all races that runners are aware of. “We try to minimize those situations,” Reinke says.
Reinke was asked about issues that arose at seven marathons or venues he promoted, including Flagler County. In every case, he said, problems developed either when cities decided that they no longer needed him and could put on the event themselves, essentially “stealing” the race from him, as Reinke put it, or local organizers and sponsors saw his success and tried to replicate it by imitating his races and attempting to trash his reputation. In Worcester, Mass., for example, Jack Goolsky, president one of New England’s largest running clubs, the Central Mass Striders running club, disassociated itself from Reinke over “questionable references” and fears that runners would not have safe running conditions. “He started badmouthing us,” Reinke said, but to little effect. “Basically he got shouted down. We had 1,400 runners, we had a tremendous event.”
In Lexington, Ky., it’s unlikely that the city will grant Reinke another permit to run a race there as he did this year. Trouble followed races in Bentonville, Ark., where the city severed its relationship with Reinke after he promoted a half-marathon there, though he is continuing to promote a 2011 event. “Right now we’re planning our race they’re planning theirs,” Reinke said. Why trouble himself with places like Bentonville and Lafayette, if they don’t want him there? Reinke’s answer: “Somebody needs to be taught a lesson at some point that you can’t treat a reputable company like mine like that.”
Reinke added: “My big mistake which we’ve corrected, I’m from Indiana, I like to think a handshake is a good thing, and frankly I’ve been doing this for 35 years, my bad is I did not have the non-compete, non-disclosure agreement upfront, which we do now. Right now Palm Coast we have that agreement, they cannot take my event, they cannot do another half marathon.” Pressed about that non-compete agreement, Reinke backtracked, saying the agreement hadn’t been finalized yet, but that it would be. “Basically Palm Coast recognizes that we own the Palm Coast half marathon, they also recognize that they can’t use the streets next year and do their own event. Basically for as long as we do the event.”
Reinke was originally in talks with Peggy Heiser of the Flagler County Tourist Development Council to put on an event called the Flagler County Half Marathon. He was seeking a $10,000 grant from the council. The council asked that he appear before it to make his case and answer some questions. Reinke was given several opportunities, including last November’s meeting. Reinke said he couldn’t make it because he was traveling. When asked about the November 17 meeting, he said he had a race in Stockton, Calif., at the time. When reminded that that had already been run four days before the council meeting, he said he had other cities to travel to. He spoke of the grant request to the council as a “formality” and complained of the “laborious” process the council was seeking to put him through for the money.
Reinke also conceded that he could not produce hard numbers proving that he would fill 200 hotel room nights, as the council would require, in exchange for $10,000. He also described an eager Palm Coast courting him away from Flagler County to put its own name on the event. That’s what, in fact, happened. Palm Coast announced the event just last week–barely six weeks before the half-marathon, an unusually short lead time for runners, who put themselves through training regimens before running full or half marathons. Reinke, however, had been promoting the event as a county-sponsored event already, and had even stamped the county’s logo on brochures, without the county’s permission. Why? “Peggy told me that everything was cool,” Reinke said. That’s not how Heiser put it to the council when she described the situation last month.
In Joplin, the city originally filed a motion in Jasper County Circuit Court seeking an injunction barring Reinke from using the “Mother Road Marathon” name. Court papers included a November letter from former Joplin Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Vince Lindstrom to Dean Reinke. (She retired last month.)
“As you know, the committee was unwilling to give up ownership of the marathon and as you also know, our verbal agreement was for one year,” Lindstrom wrote. “As I told you at the time of that verbal agreement, we would evaluate how the first year went and make a decision following the first race. To be candid, you have too much on your plate for the size of your organization. The concept of a series of half marathons in minor league cities is a good one, but you need the staff to make it happen. At this time, you are depending far too much on the local organization. You did not deliver on the sponsorships or the expo. The shirts were not ordered on time and the food for the post party was a complete fiasco. It was not Deano’s fault, or Juan’s fault. You would not give the green light because you had delayed the process and you were sure you could save money the last minute. Finally, your track record in Bentonville was awful. They want nothing to do with you.”
Reinke disputes Lindstrom’s characterization of the event, saying his company is growing, adding staff, and took on all the risk of the race. In remarks he made to a local paper in Missouri, Reinke said there was a written contract with Joplin, but he wouldn’t release it, calling it “proprietary.” Joplin officials said there was no such contract. Contracts between local governments and private firms are, of course, not proprietary. In the interview with FlaglerLive, Reinke said that in contrast with the Tourist Development Council in Flagler County, the council in Pasco County agreed to give him a grant for an event there. Asked how much he was to receive, Reinke said the information was “proprietary.” Government grants of public dollars to any entity or individual are, of course, not proprietary.