Colonial Downs and Strawberry Hill Races have “amicably resolved” legal issues

Owners of two local horse races have resolved a legal dispute, Colonial Downs will now host Dogwood Classic Races on April 6th.

Update #2 — March 20, 2013; 3:45 PM

Last November, Strawberry Hill Races filed a trademark infringement and unfair competition complaint against Colonial Downs (see below), which has now been settled.

From a joint statement released today:

Colonial Downs and partners of Strawberry Hill Races, Christie Harrell and Mildred Dotson, announce today that their dispute regarding the “Strawberry Hill Races” trademark has been amicably resolved. The Strawberry Hill Races will be conducted in April beginning in 2014 and during subsequent years. Colonial Downs will conduct the Dogwood Classic Races on April 6, 2013 and during subsequent years. There is no relationship between the Strawberry Hill Races and Colonial Downs or the Dogwood Classic. Both events are independently owned and operated.

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Update #1 – November 27th, 1:44 PM

Owners of the Strawberry Hill Races, a horse racing event that dates back to 1895, have filed a trademark infringement and unfair competition complaint against the owners of Colonial Downs raceway.

Filed in local US District Court on November 13th, the complaint alleges that Colonial Holdings, Inc., which owns the Colonial Downs raceway in New Kent, improperly used the Strawberry Hill Races name and trademark to advertise and host an event on June 2nd, 2012.

The plaintiffs in the complaint, Christie Harrell and Mildred Dotson, assert that they purchased the rights to Strawberry Hill Races at auction on May 24th. If you recall, that was when the individual assets of the State Fair of Virginia, which had owned the Strawberry Hill Races trademark and had previously filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, was sold en masse.

A week after the sale, Colonial Downs, which had hosted the annual event since 2000, advertised and hosted a Strawberry Hill Races on June 2nd. That, the plaintiffs argue, infringed on their trademark.

Additionally, the plaintiffs assert that Colonial Downs has misled the public into thinking that Colonial Downs owned Strawberry Hill Races when the raceway did not. Furthermore, the complaint alleges a so-called misappropriation of goodwill. This stems from Colonial Downs creating a new competing race, the Dogwood Classic (see article below) and representing that new race as a replacement for Strawberry Hill Races.

The next step in the legal challenge will likely result in lawyers for the defendant, Colonial Holdings, Inc., filing a “motion to dismiss” to the presiding judge. It’s unknown when, or if, a trial will commence.

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Colonial Downs announced yesterday that it has created a new horse racing event, the Dogwood Classic. The name was chosen by the public in an online vote.

A panel selected five names for public competition. Dogwood Classic received 33% of the vote, followed next by Commonwealth Spring Classic with 20% (other choices were Colonial Downs Spring Fling, Kentland Races, and Brick House Races).

“We want to kick off the inaugural Dogwood Classic with an immediate vibrancy,” said Colonial Downs President, Ian Stewart, of the inaugural event to be held in Spring 2013. Details of the race will be announced in the coming days.

Previously, Colonial Downs hosted the Strawberry Hill Races, which celebrated its 80th running last year. However, that race’s name was purchased at auction last year by an outside group. As its still unknown whether that new group will host a Strawberry Hill Races in 2013, Colonial Downs created the Dogwood Classic to run in the spring, when previous Strawberry Hill Races were held.

A launch party for the Dogwood Classic is scheduled for November 15th (more information at 804.966.7223). The new logo and tailgating information will be available on the event’s Facebook page in the near future.

photo of Colonial Downs by tvnewsbadge

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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

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