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Due to a dispute over a trademark, the 2020 Reno Snaffle Bit Futurity is currently not an NRCHA-approved show. Last year, Nick Dowers and Smart Shiney Playboy won the show's Open Championship. • Scootem-N-Shootem Photography.

Reno Snaffle Bit Futurity Loses NRCHA Approval Over Trademark

This year’s Reno Snaffle Bit Futurity will likely take place without approval from the National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) because of a dispute over a trademark. It has to do with the words “Snaffle Bit Futurity.”

The issue? The NRCHA has the trademark for “Snaffle Bit Futurity” and requires shows to acknowledge the association’s ownership of the phrase in order to gain show approval.

Organizers do that by checking a box on show approval applications submitted to the NRCHA.

The Reno Snaffle Bit Futurity’s organizers refused to check the box, so the show scheduled for Sept. 13-20 was not approved by the NRCHA. Not checking the box was an intentional act done on principle, because show officials don’t believe the NRCHA has the right to trademark the phrase.

“We believe the use of ‘Snaffle Bit Futurity’ does not belong solely to the NRCHA, and many shows and associations have used the term for decades to describe their event for what it is: an event for 3-year-olds competing in a snaffle bit,” Reno Snaffle Bit Futurity President Dar Hanson said in a statement sent to Quarter Horse News. “The NRCHA set precedence by approving the previous three years of our show without objection to the use of ‘Snaffle Bit Futurity’ in our show name. During that time, $30,000 in youth scholarships have been awarded through the ‘Reno Snaffle Bit Futurity,’ and we are very proud of that contribution to the future of the reined cow horse sport.”

Trademark

The NRCHA secured the trademark for “Snaffle Bit Futurity” in October 2018. Although the phrase is used to describe events in several equine disciplines, the trademark on file with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office only pertains to reined cow horse-related events and activities. 

Checking the box and acknowledging the NRCHA owns the trademark gives shows permission to use the phrase without infringing on the association’s rights, which are protected by law. This was the first year the box regarding the use of “Snaffle Bit Futurity” appeared on the NRCHA’s show-approval forms.

NRCHA Communications Manager Allison Walker said the association warned shows last year that, in 2020, it would require the acknowledgement of its trademark in order to gain approval. There is no extra fee associated with using the phrase.

“The NRCHA isn’t asking [Reno Snaffle Bit Futurity] to do anything that isn’t being asked of any other group requesting permission to hold an event that they would like to call a ‘Snaffle Bit Futurity.’ Any request for approval must comply with all NRCHA rules,” Walker said. “The form is the same for everyone.”

If organizers of the Reno show still want to be approved, she said they can either change the name to something else —such as Pre-Futurity or Futurity — or check the box. There still is time for them to get approval if they comply, she said.

Officials with the Reno Snaffle Bit Futurity say they don’t plan on checking the box and have asked the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office to review the NRCHA’s trademark of “Snaffle Bit Futurity.”

Non-Approval

First held in 2017, the Reno Snaffle Bit Futurity was created to continue the tradition of reined cow horses in the West after the NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity was moved from Reno to Fort Worth.

The show has grown each year since its inception, and in 2019 offered its biggest total purse of $404,350. There were 322 limited-age entries in 2019 and it paid $50,000 to the Open Champion.

The Reno Snaffle Bit Futurity’s current status as an unapproved show means money won at the event will not count toward NRCHA year-end programs or the official NRCHA earnings of a horses and riders. However, information about money won at the show will still be available to industry companies that compile records and statistics. 

Regardless of the show’s approval status, organizers say they still plan to host the event in September at the Reno-Sparks Livestock Events Center.

“We are still having the 4th annual Reno Snaffle Bit Futurity, and we are looking forward to a great show with our competitors and owners, vendors, and fans,” Hanson said in the statement. “We will be awarding 17 saddles, over 80 buckles, numerous prizes, scholarships to the top youth winners, and over $200,000 added throughout the futurity divisions and horse show classes. We’ll see you in Reno!”