A federal judge has ordered environmentalist Jeffrey Salt to renounce his use of Waterkeeper trademarks, in a decade-long dispute between the Utah man and Hudson Valley environmentalists.
U.S. District Judge Nelson S. Roman also fined Salt and his organization up to $144,800, for violating court orders over the use of Waterkeeper Alliance’s trademarks that can be traced back to the creation of Riverkeeper in 1986 by environmentalist and fishermen who had organized in the mid-1960s to clean up the Hudson River.
Roman also held out the possibility of imprisonment if Salt continues to defy the court.
Waterkeeper Alliance, an umbrella group that represents Riverkeeper and 300 more watershed protection groups worldwide, has argued that Salt has damaged its reputation.
“Salt is a pariah in the Great Salt Lake environmental community,” Waterkeeper has stated, because of “the positions he takes and his violent criminal history.”
The alliance had licensed an Audubon affiliate in Salt Lake City to use the Riverkeeper trademark. The organization fired Salt as its executive director in 2004, and allowed him to keep using the Riverkeeper trademark at Spirit of Utah Wilderness Inc., a nonprofit organization Salt formed to do business as Great Salt Lakekeeper.
In 2008, the alliance revoked Spirit’s license for failure to comply with its standards, including an integrity clause. Salt had been arrested, and he was later convicted, on a charge of felony aggravated assault for beating up an ex-girlfriend.
Waterkeeper, then based in Irvington, demanded that he stop using its trademarks, but Salt, according to court documents, kept using the Riverkeeper and Waterkeeper names and even referred to himself as the Great Salt Lakekeeper.
Waterkeeper sued Spirit of Utah in 2010 for trademark infringement.
In 2015, Roman granted the alliance a default judgment and ordered Spirit of Utah and Salt to stop using the trademarks.
He didn’t stop, and in 2017 Roman found him in contempt of the court order and fined him $100 a day.
Last year Waterkeeper asked the court to sanction Salt for failure to comply with court orders. Salt, who is representing himself without an attorney, did not show up at an October hearing, but he filed a written response in December.
The court lacks jurisdiction over him, he states, because he was never named as a defendant in the lawsuit. He argued that Waterkeeper had stolen his intellectual property, claiming that it never owned the Lakekeeper name and that he was the first person to use the name in commerce.
Roman concluded in his April 5 opinion that Salt has not complied with his orders.
He ordered Salt to post a statement on his website and social media accounts, saying that Spirit of Utah, Great Salt Lakekeeper and Great Salt Lake Water Keepers “have no right to use any of the trademarks of the Waterkeeper Alliance,” and that he is not the Great Salt Lakekeeper.
Roman ordered him to pay $144,800 in fines within 45 days. If he is unable to do so, he must provide details of his personal finances, including federal tax returns, places of employment and bank accounts.
Imprisonment is a drastic remedy in civil cases, Roman noted, but sometimes it is the only remaining penalty that can motivate a defendant. If Salt does not comply with the latest court order, Roman said, he may order his arrest and confinement.