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The Oklahoma City Pride Alliance can no longer use the original and familiar “OKC Pride” brand phrase and logo or even “Oklahoma City Pride” in their Internet presence per a district judge’s order Friday.

Oklahoma County District Judge Aletia Haynes Timmons said in the order that the Alliance using OklahomaCityPride.org or OKCPride.org “…infringes on the trademark, the name, and domain of Oklahoma City Pride, LLC.”

Also, the formerly-dissolved OKC Pride, Inc. is ordered back to life at least to carry out its bylaws and decide what to do next. The organization had been dissolved by the vote of only three directors in 2018 when the bylaws called for a majority of five to make such a decision.

The judge agreed with plaintiff John Gibbons that the action was legally “defective” which made the corporation undissolved in effect.

Other assets previously transferred from the original OKC Pride, Inc. will have to be returned by the judge’s order. Restitution funds for an embezzlement case in OKC Pride, Inc. being held by the Oklahoma County DA cannot be accessed by the Alliance but only the now-undissolved OKC Pride, Inc.

Nothing prohibits the Alliance from using “OKC Pride Alliance” and moving forward with a parade they have planned for downtown in June as long as they don’t trade on the history and goodwill of the original parade, logo, and the name “OKC Pride.”

Hannah Royce, president of the Alliance told Free Press afterward, “I gave it my cowgirl best attempt” at working with those who were in the older OKC Pride, Inc. but the Alliance felt they had to move on to produce the best event and be the most inclusive they could be.

Change of course

This comes after the new organization — officially “Oklahoma City Pride Alliance” — had successfully pulled off one of the largest Pride parades in the 39th Street district in June of 2019. The week also saw other activities leading up to the parade such as film discussions and a Pride Worship service.

After enduring an embezzlement situation by a former director of OKC Pride and then having several leave the original OKC Pride board, the three remaining members voted to dissolve OKC Pride, Inc. in September of 2019 and transfer the assets to the Oklahoma City Pride Alliance.

Then came the pandemic in 2020.

The Alliance organized and held a virtual OKC Pride Festival in 2020 instead of endangering thousands with another in-person parade and festival.

With no public objection from much of anyone, Oklahoma City started to see the Pride Alliance as the new organizational iteration of a historic parade and festival.

But, just below the surface, trouble was brewing.

Tipping point

The tipping point for John Gibbons and other long-term bar owners along the Strip seems to have come when the Alliance, made up of mostly a new generation of Pride leaders, decided to shift the historic parade and festival to downtown around Scissortail Park.

Negotiations between Alliance leadership and Gibbons representing the 39th Street Business Association had broken down late in 2019 and later in 2020.

Then, Gibbons filed suit against the Alliance December 16, 2020 questioning the dissolution of the original OKC Pride, Inc in 2019.

Lawsuit

The lawsuit asks for “a declaratory judgment that the attempted dissolution of OKC Pride on September 20, 2019, was defective and done in contravention of OKC Pride’s bylaws; breach of fiduciary duty; and aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duty.”

Gibbons as the plaintiff seeks “relief for the significant harm caused” to Gibbons and others by the “unlawful acts” of the three board members who dissolved OKC Pride and formed the Oklahoma City Pride Alliance.

The suit demands that the brand “OKC Pride,” money, equipment, and other items that had been transferred to the new organization be returned.

A key element of the suit is that the “goodwill” from decades of development of the “OKC Pride” name that has become a brand has been transferred to the new organization.

“Since the attempted dissolution of OKC Price (sic) and attempted transfer of assets, OKC Pride Alliance has unlawfully made claim to OKC’s Pride’s assets, including OKC’s goodwill and right to the name OKC PRIDE to the deprivation of Mr. Gibbons and other former members and board members of OKC Pride.”

Big win

Friday, in the virtual pre-trial hearing, Gibbons won the big point of the argument when Oklahoma County District Judge Aletia Haynes Timmons ordered the OKC Pride, Inc. back to life and assets returned to it.

“I find temporarily on the evidence before me that the September 19th [2019] resolution dissolving Oklahoma City pride incorporated was not legal, not in accordance with the bylaws, that there was no notice given to interested parties, including the people who are members, or sponsors who write a $2,500 check to be part of the parade as a sponsor.”

Gibbons had claimed in his testimony that he had paid $2,500 as a membership but it was determined later in the hearing that it was one sponsorship among others for the same amount given at the same time.

Judge Timmons said in her decision that those who gave sponsorships for a particular purpose should have had their money returned instead of transferring it to another organization.

“So with regard to that,” said Judge Timmons, “I think the restitution issue — who gets it — pretty clear to me that it goes to Oklahoma City pride incorporated. It is clear more probably than not that that’s where it ought to go. So I’m going to restrain the movement of it. The disbursement of it pending — this is early on, so it may be that there’s some evidence on my hearing from the witnesses we heard today — but I’m going to restrain the movement of the money, the dissipation of the money, anybody’s spending of it or being paid out at any point in time.”

Name belongs to OKC Pride

Her ruling on which organization would get to use the original “OKC Pride” especially in their Internet presence such as domain names was direct.

She prefaced her ruling by complimenting the Alliance for their parade work.

“I applaud Oklahoma City of pride Alliance incorporated for doing the 2019 Parade. I always enjoy watching it. Took my kids to it over the years. And it is an important part of Oklahoma City.”

But as to the brand “OKC Pride” Timmons was clear.

“But with regard to the name OklahomaCityPride.org that is exclusively the province of Oklahoma City pride Incorporated, whether it’s spelled out or it’s just OKC. So I am ordering that Oklahoma City Alliance Incorporated, cease use immediately of OKCpride.org, whether it’s OKC, or OklahomaCityPride.org because I believe it infringes on the trademark, the name and domain of Oklahoma City pride LLC.”

Free Press contacted both attorneys, Brian Ted Jones for the Alliance and Evan Talley for Gibbons but they only agreed to speak off the record for this reporter’s understanding of the proceedings of the day. Talley said he and Gibbons might have a statement but they weren’t sure.

Jones was not willing to go on the record but Hannah Royce, president of the Alliance did speak on the record.

At publication, there has been no public comments sent to Free Press from either attorney.

Response from the Alliance

Hannah Royce, president of Oklahoma City Pride Alliance, Inc., gave testimony in the hearing Friday and talked on the record with Free Press afterward.

In general, Royce said that the Alliance was going to try and stay positive and move forward while respecting the past.

Royce told us, “I gave it my cowgirl best attempt at working with them with my most optimistic hat on. I didn’t walk in there by any means trying to take over anything. I certainly am aware of the deep, deep history regarding our community.”

We asked Royce if it was ever the intent of the Alliance to take the parade off of 39th Street. “No, absolutely not,” said Royce.

“We had an October meeting in 2019, with stakeholders, including Mr. Gibbons,” said Royce. “And, at that meeting, which lasted about 30 minutes, we were unable to agree on ultimately, even a post mortem of sorts from 2019.”

Royce said that they could not get an agreement on the Alliance having a board member in attendance at all 39th Street Business Association meetings to coordinate permitting, street closures, etc.

Royce also said there were disagreements about street closures to allow emergency vehicles to approach the parade quickly and safely to render aid to those having medical emergencies during the parade.

“And so, our organization moved forward,” said Royce. “Because it is still our mission to promote inclusion and diversity and a safe space for our community to celebrate annually. So in doing that, we left it on the note of, you know, if you all have terms to work together in 2020, we will we would love to hear them otherwise, we will have to be looking for other organizational partners to host the 2020 pride events.”

As it turned out, the 2020 event was a virtual event, which put off the real issue of the parade’s location until the next planning season in the fall of 2020.

Moving forward

Royce told us that moving forward the Alliance would be putting the word “Alliance” on everything and surrendering the “OKCpride.org” domain name freeing it up for the undissolved OKC Pride, Inc. to pick it up for their Internet presence.

“But honestly, we really love that word Alliance, so we’re going to lean on it.”

Even though a jury trial has been demanded by Gibbons’ lawsuit, attorneys for both parties will begin working with each other to work out details of the judge’s orders for now. If both parties can come to an agreement then a jury trial will not be needed.

Last Updated March 21, 2021, 1:23 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor