Showing posts with label Sarah Palin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sarah Palin. Show all posts

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Can Politicians Become Trademarks? Are Voters Just "Consumers"?

The Obama Rising Sun Trademark
Even though politicians' names, campaign emblems and slogans are used in all manner of political speech, they may still be fully protectable as commercial trademarks.  Voters and political participants may be treated as "consumers" under applicable trademark laws. Case in point:  Just last month, President Barack Obama's campaign committee filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against a Washington D.C.-based company for using the campaign's "Rising Sun" logo without permission. The Obama campaign sued Washington Promotions & Printing Inc. in federal court, claiming the company's website has been selling unauthorized merchandise featuring the campaign's "Rising Sun" logo. According to the Complaint, the Obama campaign had sent several cease and desist letters last year, but the Defendants continued to infringe. "[The] Defendants are using the Rising Sun Trademarks on merchandise in a deliberate and willful attempt to draw on the goodwill and commercial magnetism of the Rising Sun Trademarks and the Obama Campaigns," the Complaint alleges.
The Obama campaign federally trademarked the “Rising Sun” logo in 2008, according to the Complaint.  It filed for a trademark registration on a similar logo for Obama’s re-election campaign in April 2011. According to the complaint, the Obama campaign is concerned that DemStore’s use of the logo “is likely to create confusion” among "consumers." “[E]ach time a supporter makes a relatively small purchase on the website, [Obama for America] obtains that individual’s contact information, which OFA can then use to reach out to that individual repeatedly to seek further donations and further opportunities to promote the Campaign,” the Complaint alleges. The campaign “relies largely on promoting a certain message,” according to the complaint, including exercising “strict control over the consumers’ experience on its website and at other marketplaces” selling authorized merchandise. 
And (former) Republican politicians have taken the trademarking theory to the next level.  Last year, Sarah Palin sought to federally trademark her name, devoid of logos.  After her application was initially rejected for being unsigned, the mark proceeded to federal registration on the Principal Register.