BTM, LLC has become aware of a statement dated September 29, 2016 which purports to be from the "Bill Thomas family." While BTM addresses that statement (and its many half-truths & whole-lies) below, we wish to point out that the statement was not sent by the family of Bill Thomas. It was written by Carolyn Thomas Walters, one of Bill Thomas's six children.
Three of Carolyn's siblings fully support BTM and its efforts to continue Bill Thomas's legacy, and in fact provided sworn testimony in support of BTM (and against Ms. Walters) at last year's trial. Many of the records from that trial - including testimony from Bill Thomas's (now adult) children that firmly demonstrates their support for BTM - is in the public domain. We are in the possession of relevant testimony from key witnesses and will cite it throughout this letter so that the Cheetah community can assess for themselves the veracity of Ms. Walter's statement.
With regard to the lawsuit itself, in 2014 BTM filed an action in federal court seeking to affirm the validity of a contract that BTM and Bill Thomas signed in 2001.
The defendants were three of Bill Thomas's children and heirs, William P. Thomas III, Frank Thomas, and Ms. Walters. On the final day of the trial, the judge read out a ruling from the bench in which he determined that the contract was one for Bill Thomas's personal services, meaning that (at least per the court's view) the contract ended upon Bill Thomas's death in October 2009.
Ironically, in 2014 - almost five years after Bill Thomas's death - the three defendants had attempted to terminate the contract meaning that they considered the contract to be valid at that time.
The court also found that BTM's position was nonetheless "meritorious" and declined to award the defendants any of the attorney's fees they incurred in the case.
As a result of the court's ruling, BTM will no longer receive Certificates of Authenticity from the Thomas family.
However, BTM is proud to be the only company that Bill Thomas - the original designer of the Cheetah car - endorsed as worthy of carrying on the Cheetah legacy.
Her claim that BTM no longer has any right to the Bill Thomas name, Cheetah brand, or related intellectual property is incorrect. On August 20, 2015, and in a statement delivered in open court, the judge limited his ruling to the "interpreting the rights and obligations of the parties under the Authorization Agreement." The judge explicitly said that his decision "is not intended to affect or rule on any trademark or other intellectual property rights which any party may hold outside the scope of the Authorization Agreement." In fact, BTM and certain members of the Thomas family are involved in a related dispute before the Trademark Appeals Board regarding the ownership of certain Cheetah trademarks, including the 'Cheetah Crest' and the 'Cheetahs Always Win' mark. In those proceedings, BTM asserts that Bill Thomas transferred those trademarks to BTM in 2006, and we believe we have the documentation to prove it. Regardless, Ms. Walters' claim that BTM lost all rights to use Cheetah or Bill Thomas name is simply incorrect.
While we are currently in the process of locating all documentation that proves BTM, LLC's rights to all the trademarks, we have located the "Assignment of Trademarks" agreement between Bill Thomas and Robert Auxier for the Cheetah Crest titled "Cheetah BTM Mark". You can view the assignment agreement below.
View Page 1 of the Assignment of Trademarks
View Page 2 of the Assignment of Trademarks
Her claim that BTM took Bill Thomas's possessions from the Bill Thomas family "without permission" (which basically accuses BTM of stealing from a man it greatly admired and respected) is absolutely false. At trial, Ms. Walters' sister Nickie testified that Bill Thomas' wife Violet told her that Robert Auxier had actually purchased those materials from Bill Thomas. Nickie testified that she relayed this information to William P. Thomas, III in January 2014. Furthermore, the court made no finding that BTM had ever stolen any item from Bill Thomas or his family at any time.
View Testimony of Nickie Baze indicating the materials were purchased (pages 41-43)
Her claim that BTM has no right to manufacture Bill Thomas Cheetahs "by any name" conflicts directly with a sworn declaration that Ms. Walters submitted to the court in July 2015. In that declaration, Ms. Walters stated "[a]t no time, did I advise [BTM] that [BTM] could not continue to build Continuation Cheetahs" and "I did not demand that [BTM] stop building Continuation Cheetahs." Regardless, at trial, the court ruled that BTM's contract with Bill Thomas ended in October 2009, and it did not rule that BTM had no right whatsoever to make Cheetah cars.
BTM vehemently disputes her claim that it has "used individuals to publicly discredit Bill Thomas and the Bill Thomas family." Once again, BTM was the only company that Bill Thomas ever endorsed to build his Cheetah car. It is true that many individuals - including members of the Thomas family - did not support the defendants' attempt to terminate the contract in 2014 and continue to support BTM to this day.
Testimony of Nickie Baze indicating her support of BTM, LLC (pages 52-53)
Testimony of John Thomas indicating his desire to not terminate the relationship with BTM, LLC (pages 34-53)
Overall, BTM's principals had a 15-year relationship with Bill Thomas and we were privileged to work with him in reviving the Cheetah car. We remain bitterly disappointed that certain members of his family have engaged in conduct that, in our view, tarnishes his legacy.
As stated above, we cited relevant excerpts from the trial throughout the text above - all of which is in the public record.
Moreover, we have provided the complete transcripts for the relevant depositions below - so that the Cheetah community can decide the truth for itself.
We believe that, contrary to Ms. Walters' claim that we are misleading the public and disrupting the Cheetah community, BTM is best positioned to continue Bill Thomas' legacy into the future.