Oak Bluffs Association map leads to threat of legal action

Oak Bluffs Association map leads to threat of legal action

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The Oak Bluffs Association (OBA) recently received a strongly worded warning from an attorney who threatened legal action if the group continues to produce and distribute a Martha’s Vineyard tourist map similar to one published by Resort Maps franchisee Jill Keating.

Attorney Allan P. Hillman of Kern and Hillman in Hamden, Conn., sent a letter dated September 14 to the OBA on behalf of Ms. Keating and the Resort Maps Franchise, a national company that operates and develops franchised businesses that market trademarked tourist and visitor maps with local advertisements.

In his letter addressed to OBA president Dennis daRosa, Mr. Hillman warned that the OBA would be sued if the association re-issues or distributes its present map, or any map similar to it or to Resort Maps’ map, in 2011.

Ms. Keating bought the Resort Maps’ franchise for the Martha’s Vineyard map in 1997 and has been a member of the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce for 13 years.

She sells advertising for the maps and has about 300,000 printed in mid-May, which she distributes by Memorial Day. Her maps are displayed in many public venues, such as the Steamship Authority and visitor centers in the down-Island towns.

“Oak Bluffs Association (“OBA”) has engaged in copyright infringement and unfair competition in violation of the rights of my clients,” Mr. Hillman wrote.

He alleged that the OBA map “copies Resort Map’s design, size, horizontal placement of harbor and roads, and general presentation.”

After buying her franchise, Ms. Keating said she chose what to highlight on her four-color, rectangular guide, which features separate maps for Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, Vineyard Haven, and the Island. She took hundreds of photos, which were used by a graphic artist to draw architecturally accurate depictions of buildings highlighted on the maps. Ms. Keating lived on Martha’s Vineyard with her family from 1988 until 1992, when they moved to Vermont.

When asked for comment by The Times in a phone call Monday, Mr. daRosa said, “I have the whole board’s backing on not speaking publicly on this issue.”

He did confirm that the OBA had talked about doing a map for the last three to four years, and voted over a year ago to do the project as a fundraiser.

The OBA is a voluntary membership group of over 140 businesses and community members established in 1991 to promote Oak Bluffs in order to improve tourism, according to its website.