Where is the real “Icebox of the Nation”?February 20, 2007

In what can only be described as a chilling trademark dispute, the cities of International Falls, Minnesota and Fraser, Colorado are battling over the right to call their respective cities the "Icebox of the Nation." At issue is International Falls' trademark registration, number 1599660, for "COLD WEATHER TESTED CITY OF INTERNATIONAL FALLS IN THE ICEBOX OF THE NATION." The cities were involved in a dispute over the same name back in 1990, and Fraser agreed to let International Falls use the "icebox of the nation" mark in exchange for $2,000. This led to the cancellation of Fraser's registration for "ICEBOX OF THE NATION," number 150178.

International Falls, according to USPTO records, apparently let its registration get canceled under Section 8 of the Lanham Act, which requires that a trademark holder file a statement of continued use of the mark six years after registration and every ten years in order to renew the registration. International Falls stated that it did not intend to let the trademark get canceled, and that they never received notice from the USPTO that its filings were due. The cancellation has caused this dispute to heat up again, though, as once Fraser noticed that the mark had been canceled, the city decided to file a new application for "icebox of the nation" on Groundhog Day (February 2). Fraser also claims it first used the name in 1956, 24 years before International Falls.

Based on geography, it seems as though International Falls, on the Canadian border, would have the edge over Fraser, which is just west of Denver and just south of Rocky Mountain National Park. However, the average temperature in Fraser is a chilly 34.8 degrees, because Fraser sits in a valley where cold air tends to settle. The average temperature in International Falls? 36.4 degrees. Time will tell which city will be able to freeze out the other's use of this trademark.

Update (2/11/2008): The USPTO recently issued a new registration to International Falls, so it appears the Minnesota town retains the moniker, leaving Fraser out in the cold.

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