After raising more than $20,000 in support of run specialty stores impacted by COVID-19 closures, the ambitious “We Run Local” campaign spearheaded by Palmetto Running Company (PRC) has apparently run afoul of trademark laws and the charity has been forced to close.

According to Rob Fyfe, PRC owner who started the “We Run Local” campaign in March to direct some revenue to hard-hit run retailers, a race promotion company that he declined to name has the trademark to the term "Run Local" and has issued a cease and desist letter claiming the use of the term by the charity and by retailers across the country was causing confusion with his trademark and demanding they stop using it or face legal consequences.

“We have been forced to close down our ‘We Run Local’ charity website and social media pages,” Fyfe tells Running Insight. “As you know, most all independent running stores use the term ‘Run Local’ in some form or another to help promote their shops and shop local. But because it is now a registered trademark, we as running stores cannot print the term ‘Run Local’ on any shirts, hats or any apparel.”

In addition, the charity and stores are not allowed to use the term in any digital marketing, including the popular #runlocal Instagram page, without the possibility of being sued for trademark infringement. 

Palmetto Running Company founded “We Run Local” in March when it, along with most other run specialty retailers in America, were forced to close due to the coronavirus. PRC set up the charity to sell shirts and other products online using the “Run Local” phrase, with buyers able to choose which local store could receive the $20 per shirt donation. The effort raised around $20,000 for stores that were impacted by the shutdown.

Fyfe had planned to leave the “We Run Local” site up to continue to provide a way for stores to raise money, but he has had to shut it down and now advises retailers to not use the “Run Local” phrase on any products or marketing.

“Here we were trying to do something good for the industry and we put a lot of time and energy into this charity,” Fyfe says. “But we can’t do it any longer because of this race organizer — and we advise other retailers about this.

“This just seems ridiculous to me that a race promoter trademarks probably the most commonly used term in our industry,” he adds.