Off come the mittens " Fraser, International Falls duke it out in court for ‘Icebox’ title |

Off come the mittens " Fraser, International Falls duke it out in court for ‘Icebox’ title


International Falls, Minn., has asked Fraser to show its hand by filing a lawsuit against the town for trademark rights to bill itself as the “Icebox of the Nation.”

The lawsuit is in response to a lawsuit filed by Fraser against International Falls in the first week of December.

“We’re trying to resolve this. They filed the same on us now,” said Fraser Town Manger Jeff Durbin. “We knew it was coming, so I’m not surprised.”

The lawsuit demands that Fraser prove it has used the trademark since 1956. Fraser asked International Falls to do the same.

Now, the fight is on.

“It’s basically to show who has the better case to argue for the trademark,” said Durbin. “It’s going to involve some work pulling this stuff together, but the community felt this was important, so we’re following through.”

Although Fraserites say their town has used the nickname since 1956, International Falls officials claim there is proof the slogan has been used since 1948.

Both lawsuits ask the respective towns to show documents demonstrating their use of the trademark, which Fraserites say International Falls let lapse 11 years ago.

Fraser, which came up with a new graphic last year to go along with its icy slogan, filed a new trademark application in November for the whole package ” slogan and graphic. If the town loses the lawsuit, it will have to give it all up.

Durbin hopes both towns can come up with a solution.

“It’ll depend on what we have, and how strong each party’s argument really is,” he said.

International Falls passed a resolution early last year calling for Fraser to step off its “pretended claim” of being the nation’s “Icebox,” according to an article printed in the Sky-Hi Newspaper. Fraserites “refused to budge.”

In good fun, the Fraser Board of Trustees sent a parcel of booby prizes to International Falls with Fraser “Icebox of the Nation” T-shirts for its city council members and one 2-foot-tall plastic penguin, which has become Fraser’s unofficial mascot.

The parcel was returned, unopened.

Fraser Mayor Fran Cook received a snowshoe challenge from her Minnesota counterpart, however, and Fraser officials issued an invitation to a snowball fight.

But now, the “fun” is over. The trademark battle has traded snowshoes and snowballs for lawyers, motions and appeals.

Durbin believes it will be late February or early March before the town knows how this will end, he said. It takes time and patience, he added, but he hopes both communities can be friends in the end.

“We’ll see what they have, they’ll see what we have. And hopefully then we’ll talk abut coming to a settlement on how we can work this out to benefit both communities,” Durbin said. “That’s my hope. But if we can’t, we’ll do what we need to do, because our primary focus is Fraser.”

” To reach Stephanie Miller, call (970) 887-3334, ext. 19601 or e-mail

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