FDNY, Group Respond Following Trademark Flap

The FDNY made posts to its Twitter and Facebook accounts stating that it does not support or endorse the Remembrance Rescue Project.

In hindsight, he said he wishes they moved quicker to do so.

"We've tried to do everything we can to do things by the book," he said. "We've been an open book since the beginning."

While Rescue 4 was at FRI, Gantz said that the group planned not to accept any donations or distribute T-shirts or hats bearing the group's name to show those in attendance that their mission is genuine.

"It's going to be all about the truck," he said prior to the conference.

He said that all along, that's what it's been all about.

"We are a historical group, an educational group. The goal was always to restore these trucks to what they looked like on 9/11," he said. "If we didn't step in, these pieces of history would have been headed to the scrap yard."

After FDNY posted the initial statements online, Gantz said the group began receiving "threats and reckless comments."

There were numerous questions about the group's status as a non-profit charity and where the money collected from donations actually goes.

Gantz said that the Rescue Remembrance Project is recognized as a non-profit corporation in Illinois, where the group is based, and is a registered charity with the state's attorney general.

The group is also awaiting approval of 501(c)(3) tax exemption with the IRS and was previously notified that there is a nine-month backlog that may draw out the process, according to Gantz.

As for where the donations go, he said that most of the money goes toward the maintenance of the rigs and gas as they've racked up more than 12,000 miles while traveling to different states for events.

The group has also made monetary contributions to the children of fallen Cottonwood, Calif. Fire Capt. Mark Ratledge and fallen Colby, Wis. Firefighter Jamison Kampmeyer.

There have also been questions about the lack of involvement by active or retired FDNY members with the project. Gantz says the group tried to obtain their help.

"We have made request after request just for help getting information to the family members, historical information and for a letter of acknowledgement from the FDNY. It's all been very one-sided," he said

Despite there were the negative messages, Gantz said that a bright spot was the more than a hundred likes to the group's recently created Facebook page, that now has just over 650 likes.

While emotions will run high any time the FDNY and 9/11 are involved, fire service law expert and Firehouse Magazine contributor Curt Varone said all fire departments, as well as groups using a department's name with permission, can learn a lesson from cases such as this.

He said that there are a lot of factors that come into play when a fire department tries to protect its name and that defending a trademark can be more difficult than it sounds.

"There're a lot of legal issues. In general, there is the question of whether or not a fire department can own a trademark and what they can trademark," he said. "There are a bunch of issues with that and the question of 'How do you go about enforcing it?'"

According to Varone, fire departments focused on protecting their names, must make sure they make every effort to do so.

"Part of having a trademark is to enforce it," he said. "If you sleep on your rights, you can lose your trademark. You can't pick and choose who you are going to use your trademark and not."

He added that it's much easier for a fire department to stop the use of a its name if it's being used fraudulently or in a way that could cause harm to the image of the department.

Varone pointing to one recent case that made headlines earlier this year after it was discovered that an adult entertainment company distributed pornographic photos containing an Albuquerque Fire Department apparatus purchased at an auction in 2008.

The company has since agreed to blur out the logos and Albuquerque's fire chief -- who was not in charge when the rig was sold -- said there are rules in place stating that all logos as well as the department's name must be removed from apparatus before they are auctioned off.