In modern-day Halifax, pirates try to settle their spats with lawsuits, not swords.
But two competing groups of grown men both calling themselves the “Pirates of Halifax” have failed to resolve their feud in the polite confines of Nova Scotia’s small claims court.
The two troupes play dress-up “in their spare time … for fun and profit,” Eric Slone, a small claims adjudicator, noted in a ruling released Thursday.
“Inspired in part by the success of the Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise, these pirate re-enactors are hired for parties or other functions where they entertain the guests with a combination of theatrics, and (usually) harmless mayhem,” Slone wrote.
The donnybrook was the result of a schism – the founder of the first group, Dwight Parker, created the second troupe after being expelled by his fellow pirates in 2016.
One group owned the piratesofhalifax.com website, while the other reserved the right to use the name under the Registry of Joint Stock Companies – and both troupes used the name on social media and elsewhere.
Slone, though, found neither troupe owned the “Pirates of Halifax” name outright.
He said Parker’s cohorts in the first troupe – Dave Renshaw, Lee Perrin and Robert Hood – did not have the right to kick him out of the group after their relationship broke down.
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He noted there were accusations of bad behaviour going in both directions, including alleged unsafe use of a replica musket and allegations of sexual harassment, among other things.
“Suffice it to say that what began as an enthusiastic hobby with the bonus of financial reward, descended into a relationship of considerable discord, mistrust and aggravation,” Slone wrote.
Parker claimed he did most of the work, and the others were merely subcontractors. But Slone said although Parker founded the group and did much of the work, the troupe operated on the principle of “one man, one vote.”
Slone said the original troupe amounted to a legal partnership under the Partnership Act, and since the partnership was never officially dissolved, neither group of pirates can use the trade name.
“In my humble opinion, the conclusion is inescapable that none of the parties has the right to use the name Pirates of Halifax, which remains an item of partnership property that continues to be owned by all of the former partners, until one or more of them releases their interest in the name.”
He said the small claims court doesn’t have the jurisdiction to wind up the partnership, and “with some regret that this result may not resolve much,” dismissed both sides’ claims.
He did, however, offer them some advice: “As a practical matter, the parties would be well-advised to work together (outside of court) to come to an arrangement that would avoid the confusion that has been created by their respective attempts to use a name to which they have no exclusive right. This is only a suggestion. Their alternative would be to take the matter to Supreme Court and wind up their partnership legally.”