"Diner en Blanc" Situation Gets A Bit Complicated

By Anthony Todd in Food on Jul 28, 2011 3:00PM

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Diner En Blanc in Quebec, via Facebook.
Who knew there could be so much conflict over a foodie flashmob filled with white linen? Since we announced the inaugural installment of Chicago's Diner en Blanc on Monday, there have been two major developments. First, the son of the organizer of the original Paris Diner en Blanc contacted us to disavow the Chicago installment of the event, citing a potential trademark violation. Second, we were alerted to a similar event, another flashmob in white, also in August. What a week!

Aymeric Pasquier, the son of the founder of the original event, contacted us yesterday. He told us that, after the New York Times covered Diner en Blanc, organizers in many cities contacted him asking to be allowed to form an event. He asked them to hold off so that he could work on developing an infrastructure for future events. Some went ahead without him - including, he says, the Chicago cohort. According to Pasquier, Diner en Blanc Chicago deleted his posts from their facebook wall and didn't respond to repeated objections. Other events, including one in San Francisco, have changed their names when confronted by Pasquier.

James Borkman, an organizer of the Chicago Diner en Blanc, emphasized that they are not officially affiliated with the Paris event. However, it wasn't because of lack of effort. "We contacted Pasquier through many different channels, and he never responded," said Borkman, asserting that Pasquier only started complaining once the event got publicity. The Diner en Blanc events in some other locations have sponsors and charge admission, and Borkman asserted that Pasquier is trying to protect his investment.

Pasquier's trademark, filed in the United States, is still being processed. It may be difficult to finalize, due to the frequency with which Diner en Blanc-like events are already being held throughout the United States. Many American cities already hold Dinners in White - Carmel, Indiana has been hosting one for three years now, and also uses the name "Le Diner en Blanc." An Atlanta dinner built along the same lines is requiring that everyone wear black, and calling itself "Feast Noir." No matter what, Borkman insists, the Chicago event will go forward - though it might end up having a slightly different name.

The competing Chicago dinner, whose website now sports a bright red disclaimer to distance itself from Diner en Blanc Chicago, was sent to us by a reader. It doesn't want publicity, preferring to spread by word of mouth - so you won't find a link to it here. But, it is a similar concept - people will gather at an appointed place, within 30 minutes of the loop, to eat, drink and share an event while wearing white. No registration is required. Pasquier told us that he would be contacting them as well.