Republican Factions Face Off in Court In Trademark Dispute

Representatives of the Republican National Committee and members of the Virgin Islands Republican Party are scheduled to appear at a June 8 hearing in District Court. Lawyers for the national committee say the state party chairman and the local party secretary are infringing on registered trademarks controlled by the RNC.

John Canegata (File photo)
Virgin Islands Republican Official John Canegata, a party to federal trademark dispute. (Source file photo)

When the complaint was filed on May 20, committee officials said they notified State Chairman John Canegata and Secretary Max Schanfarber to stop using the Republican elephant symbol and the term GOP by itself or as part of a local identifier. The named defendants appearing in the District Court filing are Canegata, Schanfarber, and the VIGOP.

St. Thomas attorney Kevin D’Amore, representing the plaintiffs, accused the two local officials of ignoring an order from national party representatives to stop using the term VIGOP. They also accused the two local officials of using the term to raise $560,000 in contributions between Jan 1, 2021, and March 31, 2022, a figure lawyers say was reported to the Federal Election Commission.

Plaintiffs in the case contend that at the time, Canegata was no longer a party official since his affirmation as Virgin Islands state chairman was voted down at the Republican National Convention held in August 2020. They acknowledged Schanfarber as the local party secretary but said he no longer held the post as of March 29.

Republican National Committeewoman Lilliana Bellardo DeO’Neal, who was not named in the complaint and whose term as part of the national committee expires in 2024, called the fundraising claim inaccurate. Speaking to the Source in a recent interview, Bellardo said the greatest amount the local Republican Party had ever managed to raise was around $20,000.

The state committee officials also alleged that Schanfarber was ousted after RNC officials traveled to the Virgin Islands and held an unofficial caucus in late March, which she called an action that violates the rules of the national committee and Virgin Island election law.

District Court Judge Robert Molloy denied the plaintiff’s motion for a temporary restraining order in early May but agreed to hold a virtual hearing for a preliminary injunction on June 8.

Meanwhile, local Republican officials have filed a civil action in Superior Court against the RNC. In court filings, D’Amore said his clients were served with process on May 25 and asked the local court for a delay.