It appears that the former head of Future Music Festival has picked the worst kind of adversary in a legal battle: an ice-cream company.

In a bizarre turn of events in the ongoing liquidation of companies associated with Future Entertainment Pty Ltd, it appears that a demand from former Future boss Jason Ayoubi for a million tubs of free ice cream from Cold Rock in a trademark dispute could lead to his undoing, with the ice-cream makers vowing to seize up to $30,00o ruled in their favour from a court hearing from Future.

Ayoubi’s alleged demand was made after his company accused Cold Rock of trademark infringement in a case where they offered customers the chance to win double passes to Future Music Festival last summer, as The Age reports.

In an email sent to Stan Gordon, CEO of Franchised Food Company – that owns the Cold Rock and Mr Whippy brands – Ayoubi demanded that the ice-cream makers drop reference to Future Music Festival in their promotional material and packaging or face consequent action.

In the correspondence, from 7th February 2013, Mr Ayoubi writes: Stan this is beyond a joke buddy… I will now be taking care of this issue from our side no lawyers required… If you don’t pay us for the use of our IP (intellectual property) then I will advertise that you [sic] winners will be refused entry. So we want 1 million tubs of cold rock for free.”

The FFC CEO insists that Cold Rock dropped all promotional references to Future Music Festival immediately, but despite their compliance were slammed by a lawsuit from Future on 27th May, only Future didn’t bother to show up to three separate court hearings. The last being the previously reported court case on 30th August, in which Justice Murphy dismissed the suit on the basis that Future failed to turn up to proceedings and that the festival company no longer owned the trademarks they were disputing. “We intend to actively pursue the directors of the company for costs. The proceedings should never have been commenced because they didn’t even own the trademarks…”

Justice Murphy dismissed the case and awarded around $30,000 in costs to Cold Rock, noting that Future Entertainment had treated the defendant “shabbily” and the court “with contempt,” and had “little or no chance of success” in winning the case because they no longer owned the Future Music Festival trademarks they were disputing; because by this time the intellectual properties for their flagship Future Music Festival, Good Life, and Summadayze events had changed hands to three new companies registered in June under the innocuous names of Music Events.

Justice Murphy had suggested during the same proceedings that the transfer of the trademarks could be to avoid any legal dramas associated with their going into liquidation, a wind-up action reflecting the “obvious financial trouble the company is in.” The court also heard a Cold Rock lawyer describing the plaintiff as “essentially a two-dollar company” whose sole assets appeared to consist of “six trademarks.”

Stan Gordon of FFC tells The Age he believes the transferral of the trademarks to new companies were made a deliberate move to evade creditors and suppliers of the 2013 editions of Future and Summadayze, who are owed an unknown figure that could balloon well past estimates of $500,000 as the liquidation investigation gets underway.

“We think it’s a phoenix transaction,” says Mr Gordon, referring to the highly questionable but technically legal business practice of shifting trademarks and assets from a failing company in order to ‘rise from the ashes’ under a new moniker, debt free.

Gordon has vowed to seize the $300,000 awarded to Cold Rock from the Victorian court, saying: “we intend to actively pursue the directors of the company for costs. The proceedings should never have been commenced because they didn’t even own the trademarks when they issued the writ,” and if the company has no assets, Gordon adds: “I will liquidate the directors and their personal assets.”

As Tone Deaf first reported, the same day that the Federal Court ordered the wind up of the Music Events (formerly Future Entertainment) companies over a debt of $22,215, Mushroom Group boss Michael Gudinski announced Frontier Touring’s new alliance to present the 2014 edition of Future Music Festival and the underage Good Life.

Gudinski reportedly purchased the trademarks for the festival from a third party, the ‘mystery broker’ revealed to be one Maria Papadimitriou, an associate of Future who first registered the three companies that are undergoing liquidation and allegedly responsible for the transfer of the festival brands.

The Mushroom boss has emphasised that the new venture is “an entirely new company… it has nothing to do with those other companies,” insisting that the festival deal saw no money change hands and it was likened to a partnership, not an acquisition.

Despite distancing themselves, the new joint venture sees Future’s Jason Ayoubi kept on board as a consultant with no stakes as a director or shareholder alongside Michael Gudinski, his son Matt, or Festival Director Brett Robinson of the new Future Music Pty Ltd. “Jason has no financial involvement. However, he’ll be doing some consulting,” Michael Gudinski has confirmed. (It’s unlikely he’ll be asked as to who should supply ice cream for the festival riders…)

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