Because of a trademark conflict, the third annual Utah Undie Run has been renamed and tentatively rescheduled for Oct. 6 — the Sunday of LDS General Conference.
The race route would take near-naked runners from Library Square, starting at 4 p.m., right past Temple Square. Should the city approve the free-speech event permit, police will have to shepherd thousands along State Street during one of the most heavily trafficked Sundays of the year. And for that, they’ll have a California-based race organizer to thank.
Confused? The commotion stems from San Diego-based THE DEW LLC’s May 2012 trademark of the name "Undie Run," which they use for merchandising and promotion of 70 events throughout the United States. Utah Undie Run founder Nate Porter says he was unaware of DEW’s Undie Runs and that he only began to receive trademark-infringement letters in early September, just weeks before his 2013 Utah Undie Run — then scheduled for Sept. 22. That short notice didn’t give him enough time to rebrand and raise the necessary funds, he says, so he called the run off in a Facebook post.
But Porter told The Tribune on Wednesday that it’s back on, albeit scaled down and now free. He has renamed the event — for now — the Utah Underwear Run, and submitted a new free speech permit request to Salt Lake City. The permit requires two weeks’ notice, Porter says, and going any later into October risks frigid, underwear-unfriendly temps. So, conference weekend it is.
"Luckily, we have the right to protest on any day that we wish," said Porter, whose family is LDS and says he bears no ill will toward the church. "As long as we’re peaceful about it, there shouldn’t be an issue whatsoever."
Salt Lake City spokesman Art Raymond says it isn’t quite that simple. The permit is still being reviewed, and to approve it, the city will have to determine that it can protect the public’s interests during both events.
Porter said the Salt Lake City Police Department told him that there had been "issues" with the event last year, but that he’s not aware of any arrests. SLCPD spokeswoman Lara Jones said she didn’t know of any incidents, but that SLCPD has expressed concerns that it may be more difficult to protect runners and conferencegoers if the two events coincide.
THE DEW LLC didn’t have the first or the biggest Undie Run — the latter honor goes to the Utah Undie Run (according to Guinness World Records), which drew about 4,000 last year. Porter also believes that Undie Run is now a ubiquitous term in the vein of Zombie Walk or Fun Run. But DEW LLC co-founder Ryan Pisinger says his organization has been doing it for 10 years, since vastly expanding the profile of a grass-roots effort at UCLA, and that Utah organizers were given ample time to change the name. He emphasizes that it wasn’t DEW’s intent to undermine the event: It’s just business.
"It’s unfortunate that they’ve responded like this," Pisinger said. "They’ve sent us pretty abusive messages on all of our social media accounts. It would have been different if they had reached out to us."
LDS Church spokeswoman Ruth Todd didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
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