Winnipeg gay-lesbian magazine resolves name dispute with CanWest

by Jarmila Dokladalova, ToBe

Swerve, the Winnipeg -based LGBT publication which has been going under that name since its inception in 1994, announced on December 21 that it will begin 2007 with a new identity: OutWords.

The name change comes from a two-year dispute with CanWest’s Calgary Herald, which started the process to trademark the name Swerve to brand a new weekly insert into its newspaper and covers the local entertainment scene. The not-for profit Winnipeg board did not trademark the name at the outset because of limited funds. Although former editor and board member Richard Wood indicated in an August 2005 interview with To Be that the two sides were inclined to negotiate terms so that both publications could use the name, the Winnipeg based Swerve opted to change its name in a monetary settlement with the Calgary Herald. “We are happy with the results and we will focus on the future to re-brand ourselves,” said Charles Melvin, the current editor and President of the Board. However, he refused to disclose the details of the settlement and the legal fees the publication incurred. “I can not tell you that. No comment,” he insisted.

Choosing a new name was no easy task. A call went out via the publication to solicit recommendationss from readers, and the board was inundated with 140 suggestions. “After hours of discussion over three board meetings, and dozens of e-mails, there was still no absolute consensus on what name worked best, so we did some testing with the public to get reactions to various names, but even that produced results that were far from clear,” said Peter Carlyle-Gordge, the Chair of the Board. After a careful search of trademarked names, the board found that many of the suggested names already appeared in the names of existing publications.

“Everyone had their favourite, but none of us could agree on it,” added Charles Melvin. “But the second one was OutWords and we all came to an agreement on that for the new name.” The board modified the formal name to OutWords Incorporated to avoid confusion with the Ontario Coalition for Lesbian and Gay rights, which also titles its newsletter by the same name. “They were very generous and understanding,” said Melvin about the discussions with the Ontario group.

In its announcement, the organization stressed that it will continue the same focus and magazine format that it adopted in September 2005. Currently, 6,000 copies are printed and distributed mainly in Manitoba but are also sent to Minneapolis and North Dakota in the US as well as The Glad Day Bookshop in Toronto and the AIDS coalition of Thunder Bay. OutWords is seeking to broaden both its coverage of more general topics in addition to its continued focus on Manitoba local news.

Asked if they will trademark the new name, Melvin affirmed with a laugh and strong emphasis: “Oh, yes, oh yes. Definitely.”

The first issue of OutWords will be printed on January 5 and be available online line the last day of December at The new tag line will be “Getting the word out since 1994” and a new graphic is still in the design process.

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