AD Main Menu

What's in a name? Iditarod asks ramshackle NYC 'Idiotarod' to cease and desist

Suzanna Caldwell

Once a year for the last 10 years, jackasses in New York City have dressed up in obnoxious costumes, attached themselves very loosely to a shopping carts and raced through the city. There is competition, there are challenges, there is even bribery and shenanigans abound. It's called the Idiotarod NYC, and it is in no way meant to be taken seriously.

Somewhere, the Iditarod Trail Committee did not get that message.

Earlier this week, the Alaska organization sent a cease and desist order to the New York City "race" saying that their use of the name infringed on ITC's trademark.

The letter, from Anchorage attorney Jon Dawson of the law firm Davis Wright Tremaine, says since the group hasn't licensed the trademark, they are causing confusion and diluting the Iditarod brand.

"Your use of 'Idiotarod' is likely to cause confusion by suggesting that ITC is somehow associated with your race," the letter states. "Your use of 'Idiotarod' is certainly likely to dilute ITC's famous mark by reducing its sole association with the Iditarod Sled Dog Race, and by causing the public to associate the mark with an event that celebrates wacky costumes and antics over one that honors the endurance and athleticism of champion sled dogs and the courage and skill of the men and women that run them."

Calls requesting comment from Iditarod race officials Friday were not immediately returned, though it's hard to overstate the difference between the two races: One demands racing 1,000-miles through the Alaska wilderness, using sleds and a team of 16 dogs. Another involves "racing" a handful of miles through urban NYC, with a group of five or so people perched on a wobbly shopping cart.

Organizers of the New York race said they couldn't comment on the issue, but said in a statement that they initially thought the order was a joke.

"The Cease & Desist Demand threatens legal action against Idiotarod NYC for trademark infringement, even though no one in their right mind could possibly confuse the ramshackle, unsanctioned display of frivolity featuring racers with wacky costumes and ridiculously modified shopping carts running between bars in the outer boroughs of New York City with the well-known long-distance sled dog race between Anchorage and Nome. Plus the Idiotarod NYC race has been going on for 10 fucking years now, people."

The race, set for this Saturday, is still set to go according to race organizers, though in an effort to not raise a ruckus, they've changed their name -- just slightly -- to Idiotarodorama NYC, to be better known, at least this year, as The Desistarod.

"As 100 percent volunteer-driven disorganizations with absolutely no operating budgets and a change of hands nearly every year, (the race) is undertaking this meaningless exercise at the eleventh hour to appease the big scary attorneys who are undoubtedly charging their clients top dollar for this piffle," the group said in its statement.

Shopping cart "mushing" races are not exclusive to NYC. More than a dozen cities have had some variations of the "race" over the years, including Chicago, San Francisco and Portland, Ore., and often refer to the races as "urban" Iditarods.

No word on whether they've been given cease and desist letters yet.