Pier trademark issues still must be sorted out

The state was given rights to the trademark for Malibu Pier within the state of California. Nick Steers

The state has received trademark rights to the Malibu Pier within the state of California. The decision on whether it receives exclusive rights outside the state will not be decided until next month. Meanwhile, the pier restaurant openings may be delayed due to piling repairs.

By Jonathan Friedman/Assistant Editor

The United States Patent and Trademark Office is expected to make a decision sometime after Sept. 30 as to whether it will grant exclusive trademark rights to the state of California for the Malibu Pier and Malibu Sports Fishing Pier names and images. Sept. 30 is the deadline for public comment on the matter. An Agoura Hills man, Stephen Harper, had said the intellectual property of the Malibu Pier should be his.

The California Secretary of State’s Office granted the state exclusive state trademark rights for the Malibu Pier and Malibu Sports Fishing Pier names and images in March. Those rights extend through 2014. The state trademark rights only apply to having the rights within California borders.

Harper told The Malibu Times in June that the rights should be his. He said he obtained ownership to the image of the pier last year. Although not having any previous affiliation with the pier or Malibu, he obtained the Internet domain name, www.malibupier.com, on which he said he planned to sell pier merchandise.

Jeff Bonhach of Malibu Pier Partners, LLC, which has been selected to operate the pier’s concessions, said he finds it unlikely that the federal trademark officials would grant exclusive rights to Harper. He said that opinion comes from having spoken to intellectual property lawyers about the issue. Harper could not be immediately reached for comment.

Malibu Pier Partners signed a short-term, interim agreement to run the pier. There is a 20-year deal on the table for the company to operate the structure, but it has not yet been signed by Malibu Pier Partners.

Although 75 percent of the pier is open to the public, there have been delays in opening the final portions of it, which would include two restaurants, small retail businesses and a surf museum/visitor’s center. The latest delay has been due to the discovery of 15 unstable pilings at the ocean end of the pier. The pilings are located beneath the bait and snack shops where the lifeguards are stationed, and will have to be driven through the deck and possibly on to two of the pier’s buildings.

Jefferson Wagner of Malibu Pier Partners said the pilings became unstable because of mussels attaching themselves to the pilings, which creates a larger surface area when the surf hits them. Jefferson said the mussel population has increased greatly because the starfish that eat them are disappearing. This, he said, is due to fisherman illegally taking the starfish out of the water, crushing them and using the material as bait.

The state Department of Parks and Recreation has agreed to pay for the repairs to the pilings at a cost of about $500,000. Bonhach said preliminary research has been done to prepare for the repairs, and the state is now ready to seek bids for the work. He said he expected the repairs to take about two months.

Bonhach said this would most likely delay construction of some of the facilities, further delaying the opening of the full pier from its now scheduled spring 2005 opening.