Wolf Trap Foundation Sues The Barns of Rose Hill Over Name

The Barns of Rose Hill pictured during last Octobers freak snowstorm now is at the center of a different storm. Photo credit Mike Dowling

What’s in a name?  “Everything,” says The Barns of Rose Hill, the Berryville, VA fledgling arts organization that is currently resisting the Wolf Trap Foundation’s legal demand that it remove “The Barns” from its name.

Wolf Trap Foundation, the Vienna, Virginia performing arts organization, has filed suit in the Alexandria federal court, claiming trademark infringement and asserting that the use of “The Barns of Rose Hill” in Berryville will confuse its arts patrons.

Ann Lesman, Chair of The Barns of Rose Hill board, commented on the suit saying, “We are what our name implies: two restored 20th Century dairy barns in Berryville’s Rose Hill Park.  It is who we are, what we have always been since the barns were built in the early 20th century.   Our name is generic and comes from descriptive use. Frankly, we are shocked and saddened by Wolf Trap’s actions, especially when their stated mission affirms that it  ‘…ensures that the arts remain accessible and affordable to the broadest possible audience.'”

“Rose Hill” was a dilapidated downtown Berryville mansion in the 1970s when civic leaders in this rural community first proposed that it be turned into an arts center.  In 1978 the mansion burned, so the plan focused on the property’s two dairy barns.  During the next forty years, the barns fell into increasing disrepair as the town lacked restoration funds and several citizen efforts fell short.

In September 2004, the present group of local volunteers, organized The Barns of Rose Hill as a nonprofit.  In a six year effort, they raised the $2.4 million necessary to transform the old barns into a 21st Century arts and visitors center.   The Barns of Rose Hill is the largest private undertaking in Clarke County, Virginia, a rural community of 14,000 in the northern Shenandoah Valley.

The problems with Wolf Trap arose shortly after the Grand opening of the The Barns of Rose Hill. One week later on September 6, 2011, Wolf Trap attorneys sent The Barns of Rose Hill a letter asserting trademark infringement.

On October 7, 2011, Wolf Trap filed application with the U.S. Trademark Office for “The Barns.”

The DC firm Arent Fox, LLP filed suit on December 14th 2001 in U.S. District Court in Alexandria stating that this tiny rural arts group will, by the use of its name, cause Wolf Trap Foundation clients confusion and do Wolf Trap harm.

A summons was served on The Barns on Thursday January 12, 2012.

On that day, Ann St. Clair Lesman, Chair, Board of Directors for the Barns of Rose Hill sent a letters to Mr. Terrence Jones, President and CEO of the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts and their legal representative.

In that letter Ms. Lesman offered to meet with Wolf Trap and their representation to attempt to discuss the matter. Her letter closed with, “I would like to meet with you and/or Mr. Gary Tabach to discuss what steps we can take to satisfy Wolf Trap, so that we can move forward with our mission to serve Berryville and Clarke County.”

She received no response.

A simple Google search for “Barns art center” produces dozens of other organizations that share the common word as part of their name. The issue, based on their  trademark infringement case, must therefore be based on proximity. Ms. Lesman addressed this concern saying, “It is hard for us to understand how we could be in any way a threat to Wolf Trap.  [They] operate with an annual budget of $28 million, 70 full-time employees, and a mission that  ‘enhances our nation’s cultural life.’ We have one part-time employee and an annual budget of less than $150,000.  What’s more, we serve a largely agricultural county with a population of 14,000, situated west of the Blue Ridge Mountains and across the Shenandoah River, 50 miles from Wolf Trap.”

The huge financial disparity between the two organizations poses a daunting challenge for the nascent arts center in Berryville. “We have an attorney on our board who helped us with this issue initially,” Ms. Lesman said, “but we soon were advised we needed a trademark attorney.”  Once the suit was filed they were told that they would need a trademark litigation attorney.” Lesman said, “The Barns of Rose Hill simply does not have the financial resources to fight this in court.”

The Barns of Rose Hill has 16 days to respond to the suit and Ms. Lesman said, “At this point we are just trying to buy more time.”

Wolf Trap representatives did not respond to our inquiries.


  1. Right Winger says:

    If you can’t afford to fight it, then change the name. Pretty simple if you ask me.

    • Change the name of Wolf Trap. Sounds like animal cruelty.

    • be sure to plead guilty if you are ever charged with a crime for which you feel you are innocent. Or is your point that justice is only for the wealthy?

      • Right Winger says:

        You’re reading to far into it. To fight something as innocuous as a name challenge is pretty stupid, especially if you’re the fledgling startup that has ticked off a fine supporter of the arts for many, many years. Change the name to the “Rose Hill Barns” or something else not so close to “The Barns of…” and be done with it.

    • While The Barns of Rose Hill may not have the funds to fight this injustice through the legal system, the people who love and support The Barns can fight for them for free by spreading news of this injustice far and wide and allowing Wolf Trap’s own arrogance destroy their reputation with their patrons and supporters. The meek shall inherit The Barns.

  2. Reality Bites says:

    Been going to Wolf Trap for decades. Never again. They have just lost our entire family as patrons.

  3. Shame on Wolf Trap. They just lost a bit of respect from me. I agree with Ms. Lesman’s comments. I hope they can find the resources to fight it. I would think any reasonable judge would dismiss it.

    • Proud Patron says:

      Absolutely shameful! How petty can you be as much support as we Virginian have given you. We love our history here in Clarke Co. We have spent years rallying together on this project. Our two barns (hence The Barns) are located on our beloved Rose Hill (hence of Rose Hill). I have a personal interest as there is a shiny red brick in the foundation that memorializes my only son that passed away in 2008.

      Wolf Trap and their petty greed has lost ALL of the respect I once had in them and that will reflect in my attendance (or lack of) from now on. This will be the last year I purchase my six season tickets that I have held for almost 12 years.

  4. Mary L. C. Daniel says:

    Same here, “Reality Bites”. But do not go silently. Please contact the Wolf trap Board and let them know.

    • There are a number of very ethical and effective strategies that can be employed to make sure the foundation understands the public’s sentiment in this situation.

      1. Visit Wolf Traps Google Local listings and leave a review of the organization. This information if it is respectful CANNOT be removed by Wolf Trap. All they can do is post a response, but they cannot make it go away. Businesses have tried but Goggle will not remove reviews unless they are abusive or blatantly false. Google “Wolf Trap Foundation Vienna Va” and you will see a map, click on the map icon then the title. You must have a Google account to post a review. They look like this:

      2. Post comments on every article published online. Wolf Trap engages in reputation management and actively monitors what is being said online. Speak up at every opportunity, respectfully. There are already several other articles out there.

      3. Contact the Public relations office at Wolf Trap but also contact the acts that are scheduled to perform there and let them know what actions the foundation is taking against the arts community, again, respectfully.
      Some upcoming acts include :

      Bill Cosby
      RAIN -A Tribute to the Beatles
      Daryl Hall & John Oates
      Earth, Wind & Fire
      Goo Goo Dolls with Michelle Branch and Parachute
      National Symphony Orchestra–Casablanca
      Dolly Parton
      Alison Krauss & Union Station
      Steve Miller Band

      4. Comment on their Facebook wall. They do have the option of removing these but the act of removing them will send a message as well.

      These are just a few things each of us can do.

      The Wolf Trap Foundation has made a PR mistake and hopefully the mistake can be corrected. Until then they need to hear, from every quarter, that citizens are not happy with their actions.

    • And a review of Wolf Trap on Yelp wouldn’t hurt either. Look for them under Vienna, Va.

  5. As if our lovely Barns of Rose Hill are going to offer great competition to Wolf Trap. And I agree the name Wolf Trap sounds a bit brutal too. Sorry Wolf Trap I look forward to your shows every year but I think not this year.

  6. Richie Blick says:

    Shocked about this. Shocked! This community fought hard for the barns and everything surrounding it so I hope we are able to fight thhis schoolyard BULLY. If we can’t afford to fight them in court (I have no knowledge of this) then we can fight it using Social Media. Ya’ll with me? –Richie Blick

  7. cheapshot says:

    Dear Mary:

    Believe me, we have tried to contact their Board since we received notice. NADA! as far as an answer. Wolf Trap’s lawyers, their teeth sharp from years of filing, are merely “protecting their brand”, as they did with the Franklin Park performing arts center in purcellville, also a converted barn and also cowed years ago into changing their name to an “Arts Center” by the spectre of huge legal bills..

    On the one hand, it is easy to lambast Wolf Trap as a bunch of performing arts bullies, throwing their weight around, crushing other community arts centers that dare use the word ‘barn” in their name. It’s also easy to read their mission statement, and I paraphrase, “to provide exposure to the arts to all”, and laugh at their pomposity. it’s very easy to say “I’ll never go to another show at WT” but in reality if everyperson in our county stopped going, it wouldn’t even show up on their bottom line. Its also easy to say this ain’t right, our cause is just, we’ll fight and win. But the reality of trademark law is that it costs more than The Barns at Rose Hill has got just to get in front of a judge and get a verdict, and if you win,guess what, you dont get the legal fees back. Any victory would be pyrrhic and would leave the Barns with no resources to provide further programs.

    What’s harder is to accept reality, pick a new name, forget about those turkeys at Wolf Trap, and move on with the mission of providing a place for the arts in B-ville. There’s a lot of great shows scheduled over the next few months covering a wide variety of genres; if we want our Art Center to survive, I think the best course of action is to buy some tickets.

    Oh, and you might have noticed, there’s a lot of furry reddish animals running around in the woods here, and as a result,there’s a lot of farms and such around here with the word “fox” in their names. My initial name suggestion for the building formerly known as the Barns of Rose Hill is “Fox Trap”. Got any problems with that, WT attorneys?

  8. Richie Blick says:

    I just took the liberty of starting a Facebook page.. look it up! LIKE it! Big Bad Wolf Trap Bully

  9. When I first read this, I thought April Fool’s had come early this year. Surely no entity could be so petty. Alas, it seems this frivilous claim is real. And as wrong as it is, the bottom line is that Wolf Traps pockets are deeper then the Barns, and they will win in the end, right or wrong, by simply outspending Rose Hill.

    Perhaps someone would like to give them a taste of their own medicine and sic PETA on Wolf Trap. Afterall, doesn’t the name suggest harm to animals?

    Meanwhile, maybe the Barns can make lemonade out of lemons and gin up a renaming contest of some sorts.

  10. do not go silently says:

    cheapshot raises some good points and I agree with Mary. A name change may be inevitable. However, I don’t want this issue to go silently into the night. Why not contact Wolf Trap and tell them if you are angry about this. They are also a National Park so writing to our Senators and Congressman would be prudent. The media loves a good David vs. Goliath story. Maybe Wolf Trap backs off and maybe not. I say put up a fight and see what happens.

    • That is a very good point for the effort. Wolf Trap is run through a public/private partnership between the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts and the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service. The foundation gets the benefit of being (or at least being perceived as) a trusted government partner in that relationship and is thereby able to raise the millions of dollars every year that it is now using to bully a small rural arts center.

      That is the point that must be made to politicians. A partner must be held accountable.

      And to cheapshot, your pragmatism is acknowledged but I believe it to be premature and defeatist.

      When Franklin Park fought that fight many internet tools that are a part of our everyday life now, were not available. A grass roots effort that is coordinated could cause them enough pain to at least discuss their ill advised suit.

    • You make a good point about the media exposure….. so to look on the bright side, perhaps this silliness could bring some major attention to and support of “our” Barns! I hope our CDN editor is sending this story far and wide!

  11. Richie Blick says:

    Anyone go to Google and type in “The Barns” and see how many other projects have these words in their titles. Use the quotes to narrow the search to just over a 1,280,000 (million) hits. Are they suing all of these? Perhaps the trademark is invalid sine referring to a barn, or multiple barns, seems so common. Or just drop the “The” and call it Barns of Rose Hill.

  12. what goes around comes around — Watch out Wolftrap I see a lawsuit from Pottery Barn coming.

  13. Why is it plural? Isn’t it just one barn?

  14. CurrentResident says:

    This law suit is absurd. I agree to voice my concerns to Wolf Trap and Congressman Frank Wolf and wish I had a connection with the news media. Am not on Facebook though.

    • I see some potential for pro-bono lawyering here. What next? You don’t suppose they’ll be suing Frank **** next?

  15. I agree with Richie. I’d remove “The” and rebrand as “Barns of Rose Hill” if it’ll get Wolf Trap off the organization’s back and avoids spending unnecessary (and unavailable) $$ on trademark attorneys. It doesn’t weaken the existing Barns brand.

    • Richie Blick says:

      Berryville’s Barns web site is http://www.barnsofrosehill.org so there is no “the” in it. I still say fight it. If not in court, in the public forum of social networking. I have 77 likes in 12 hours since creating the facebook page “Big BAD Wolf Trap Bully” and have received more supportive e-mails than I can possibly respond to. And I have nothing to do with the barns except community support.

      In Wolf Traps Barns, there are 2 adjacent barns gifted in 1981. So Berryville’s Barns gifted to the town in 1964. And were referred to as The Barns of Rose Hill decades before what is now Wolf Trap was gifted. And from what I have heard since Rose Hill was gifted, locals say it was always the plan to make them a cultural center and conserve local heritage. It took a long time but it was done beautifully. What I am doing is purely small town pride driven! The thanks must go to the hundreds of volunteers and staff that made The Barns of Rose Hill possible.

    • A prescient suggestion if turns out, Barbara.

  16. A few reasonable comments to http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-state-of-nova/post/wolf-trap-ticket-sales-ranked-third-in-world/2012/01/17/gIQAknaT7P_blog.html?hpid=z14 might help, although the Post author says he is already looking into the story.

      • “Wolf Trap’s suit, filed Dec. 14 but only served on Rose Hill last week, claims that Rose Hill added its geographical term to “The Barns” “with a deliberate intent to cause consumers to believe that [Wolf Trap] had expanded its operations to include a new location.”

        To me, that’s just hysterical! Why would The Barn’s of Rose Hill have any desire to trick people into thinking they were an expansion of Wolf Trap???

        Clearly, Wolf Trap thinks WAY to highly of themselves to ever assume that ANYONE associated with Rose Hill was considering them when choosing a name….a name that has been associated with the barns for as LONG as I can remember.

        I guess Wolf Trap should sue Vienna, Austria because people might confuse that location with Vienna, Virginia…

        Also, how can someone trademark something after another organization uses a similar name and then expect them to change it because of infringement? I think I’ll go trademark “Kim” and sue Kim Kardashian.

  17. Ann St. C. Lesman says:

    Wonderful support from the community…some thoughtful comments. Why “Barns” is plural: the two barns in the park were always called “the barns of Rose Hill.” The renovation joined them into a single building by means of a central atrium.

  18. livein22611 says:

    New article in the Post Local! Mr. Jackman did a great job. Wolf Trap is being ridiculous.

  19. Unhappy about this? Tell them what you think…

    Melissa Chotiner
    Public Relations
    (703) 255-4096

  20. clarke conservative says:

    Maybe someone should contact PETA about the name ‘Wolf Trap’ ? They should have to change their name because it encourages animal cruelty !

  21. DAWN PRICE says:


    • Kelly C Smith says:

      You can read all of the comments condemning the litigation by going to the official FB fan page of Wolf Trap, then click on “Every (Recent Posts)” near the top of the page, just below the photo stream of dog pics. Their FB page was inundated with posts today, so they then issued a statement. Keep it going people! But, please, be respectful. We don’t need to be nasty to fight this in the social media.

  22. dontaskme says:

    Just read the post article, it was excellent and rightly paints wolf trap as the idiot. It also mentioned that there will be a defense fund set up. (Will CDN provide this information in an update to the article?) How about selling baseball caps with the barns of rose hill prominently written on the front as a fund raiser for legal defense. I would gladly buy more than one and proudly where it to wolf trap (assuming I even go there after this bs on their part)

  23. On Facebook says:

    To those posting on the Wolf Trap Facebook page – they aren’t removing your posts (yet). You just need to make sure you select to view the posts for “Everyone (Most Recent)” on their Wall, and not just posts from Wolf Trap. Then you’ll see the entire slew of people upset about their actions.

  24. J. M. Wood says:
  25. Contact your local legislators to make them aware and ask for their help!

    Senator Jill Holtzman Vogel
    Phone: 540-662-4551
    Fax: 540-341-8809
    Email: district27@senate.virginia.gov

    Delegate Randy Minchew
    Phone: 703-777-1570
    Fax: 703-737-3632
    Email: DelRMinchew@house.virginia.gov

    You may also find your local legislator and send a message here: http://conview.state.va.us/whosmy.nsf/main?openform


  26. Wolf Trap has now responded to the crush of messages on their Facebook page.


    • Kelly C Smith says:

      See what we can do!? Kudos and thanks to everyone who posted on the Official FB Fan page of Wolf Trap, letting them know how feel about their litigation against The Barns at Rose Hill..

  27. Are you serious, Wolf Trap? Amicable? Is that what you call “change your name or we’ll sue and bankrupt you”? And you’re claiming The Barns of Rose Hill is lawyering up? What about the THREE you have filing malicious suits? Do they not know that people can see the facts?

  28. Slyghtly Askew says:

    Berryville failed to realize the infringement…Honest mistake. Change the name. If Wolf Trap Will not accept that and continues to pursue in a vindictive way …then it’s a whole different thing.
    I was not aware of the art center in Berryville and am glad to find out about it,will likely visit. Money is too tight in the arts to pursue any long drawn out legal battles. Change the name and use the funds to deveope the center. Simple Get the egos and the lawyers out of the picture. get back to the mission of the arts.

    • livein22611 says:

      Glad to hear that you will be visiting our venue. The reason you are getting thumbs down on this issue is that the residents have used the term The Barns of Rose Hill and had the barns for decades. Why should the name be changed when the “other” barns are over 50 miles away, do not use Rose Hill in their name, and are a different venue? Our barns host music and other forms of art. And from what I can see WT uses Barns at Wolf Trap in their media. The only word in questions is Barns. This is just another example of a big bully pushing their will on others and we are not willing to bend over for them. It’s time to stand up to the bully.

    • From the reading I’ve done, no infringment occured at the time that The Barns of Rose Hill became an offical name. Wolf Trap only filed for the trademark after.

  29. Richie Blick says:

    It looks like “The Barns” IS NOT a registered trademark. Wolf Trap has applied for one in October but no where can we find that anything has been approved. Here is the link. Click away – there is lots of other useful information in there. It was suggested that one can dispute it thru the trademark office, and you can contact the congress and senate. Lets keeps that pressure ON. Hundreds and hundreds of supportive comments on Wolf Trap Official Fan Page – and over 530 likes on Big Bad Wolf facebook page and posts linking lots of articles and reports.

  30. Richie Blick says:
  31. Right Winger says:

    The sense of outrage in this community over a silly name issue is absolutely mind-boggling to me. People matter more to me than the name on a local arts center. Local people are logging on to Facebook and other social media sites and absolutely crucifying an organization trying to protect it’s interests. Several people on here are boo-hooing over how they think the big NOVA organization is picking on our little slice of heaven.

    You all know where I’m going with this.

    Where was all this outrage and disgust over a year and a half ago when a kid in our community was dead?



    • There was plenty of outrage then. This is not outrage R. Winger. This is being part of the community and standing up for it.
      That was a sad time. This is not. Your comparison is way off the mark.

  32. The Printer says:

    Where was you ? I don’t think I recall seeing your Facebook page on the topic. I don’t recall seeing anyone picketing downtown on the topic. I don’t recall seeing one thing with your name or RightWinger attached to this topic. (Except for on this forum where your thoughts remained anonymous).

  33. Personally, I would rather support Wolftrap, where they have actual performers that I have heard of, rather than just a new building with some pictures on the wall….. When will the Barns of Rose Hill be holding concerts with famous people like Hall & Oates, Steve Miller Band, and Earth Wind and Fire???? Nuff Said……. Get over yourselves people…….

    • That’s part of the whole point!!!!

      These two places are COMPLETELY different and the fact that Wolf Trap thinks for a second that anyone could confuse the two places…one with famous performers and one with jjust “some pictures on the wall” (which is have to disagree with) is absurd.

      No one is claiming that The Barns of Rose Hill is a threat to Wolf Trap…well, except Wolf Trap.