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Legal fight over cheesesteak festival

Say "cheesesteak" and the squabbling begins. It's usually a tiff over which shop is the best. This time, the rights to a festival are at stake.

Say "cheesesteak" in Philadelphia, and a squabble erupts.

Usually, the fight is over which shop does it best.

This time, it's over control of the Philadelphia Cheesesteak Festival, whose inaugural event was Oct. 24, 2015, at Lincoln Financial Field.

And lawyers are involved.

Elite Event Management Group, which organized last year's festival, claims in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia that one of their contractors, Kevin and Raymond Baxter of Baxter & Associates, is trying to hijack the event.

Elite, owned by promoter David Feldman Jr., says in the suit that it contacted representatives of Lincoln Financial Field recently to book the 2016 edition of the festival but were rebuffed.

Meanwhile, a marketing firm hired by the Baxters had issued a press release stating that the 2016 festival would be held Sept. 17 at Xfinity Live. Philly.com posted a blog item about the announcement. A copy of the blog post is included in Elite's suit. The post was removed after it was determined the venue had not given a firm commitment to the festival organized by the Baxters.

The suit says the Baxters were hired in 2015 to do promotion and marketing for the festival and had signed a nondisclosure agreement in June 2015 that included a noncompete clause.

Elite's suit, filed by attorney Simon Rosen, described the festival as "successful" and said it made a $200,000 profit.

The suit does not mention Kevin Baxter's role in the days and weeks after the festival, as he was the point man addressing numerous complaints of long lines and poor organization. Two Facebook groups were set up to air grievances and offer advice to people seeking refunds. Ticketmaster apparently issued some refunds, though some were later reversed.

Elite also contends in the suit that Baxter & Associates has no right to the trademark "Philadelphia Cheesesteak Festival." Baxter applied for the trademark in August 2015 - two months after the noncompete was signed. The trademark was registered in April 2016, records show.

Records also show that Elite applied for "Philly Cheesesteak Festival" in March 2016. That trademark has not been granted.

A Baxter spokesman said Kevin Baxter would not comment on the suit beyond calling it "wholly without merit. ... Baxter & Associates plans to pursue its original vision for the event and rebuild what is clearly a very powerful brand. Given the problems at last year's event, the official trademark holder is reviewing their options in terms of venue, promotion, and event management services."

Meanwhile, Elite is behind Philly's BBQ Fest on July 30 at Citizens Bank Park.

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