Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Can the Swastika Seriously Be "Rehabilitated"?

Ancient pottery with a swastika
Without a doubt, the most shocking and recognizable symbol of modern racial hatred is the swastika.

Adopted by Adolf Hitler as the banner for the German National Socialist (Nazi) party in the 1930's, the swastika has become synonymous with racial animosity and violence ever since then.

However, the swastika actually originated as an ancient symbol symbolizing the sun, and was used by many different cultures and religions before Hitler saw fit to adopt it for political usage.  Artifacts such as pottery and coins from ancient Troy show that the swastika was a commonly used symbol as far back as 1000 B.C.
Flag of the Third Reich

Now, one modern religious group is engaged in a high-profile bid to "re-brand" the swastika, and it is making some people see red.

The Raëlian Movement, who believe that Extra-Terrestrials originally created all life on earth, have used a symbol that is the source of considerable controversy:  an interlaced star of David and a swastika.

The Raelian Movement's Symbol
The Raelians apparently believe that the Star of David represents infinity in space whereas the swastika represents infinity in time, i.e., there being no beginning and no end in time, and everything being cyclic.

In 1991, their symbol was changed to remove the swastika, out of respect to the victims of the Holocaust, but as of 2007 has been restored to its original form.
According to the the movement's website,, on Saturday, July 12, 2014, the International Raelian Movement repeated the culminating event of its annual swastika rehabilitation effort by flying banners featuring the symbol over beaches adjacent to New York City, Miami and other U.S. locations.

But in contrast to prior years, this year’s flybys will constitute the grand finale for an entire week of events rather than for the 24-hour period formerly known as Swastika Rehabilitation Day.

“We decided we need an entire week to really get the word out,” said Raelian Guide Thomas Kaenzig. “Swastika Rehabilitation Week began on July 5, and we’ve already held events in about 20 cities in Africa, Australia, Asia, Europe and South America. This weekend we’ll hold events all over North America, including the United States and Canada.”

And indeed, they did.  USA Today reports that the banner has caused quite a stir when it was flown over New York's Coney Island.

Canada’s largest billboard company rejected the group’s order for a large sign it wanted to display in that country, Kaenzig said.

“The company representative said many people would see our ad as offensive and inflammatory, so they wouldn’t post it,” Kaenzig explained. “So this poses a real catch 22. How can the world be reeducated about the truth of this symbol if we can’t get the word out to show people? Luckily, religious freedom is more respected in the United States than in Canada, so we are able to do more here.”

Kaenzig said pre-Nazi era swastikas still exist in hundreds of public places in the United States.

Mosaic swastika tile
“It’s still readily seen in NYC subway stations and museums, in the old U.S. mint, at the Garfield Monument, and in Native American artwork,” he pointed out.

“There's even a town in upstate New York that was named ‘Swastika’ after gold was found there a century ago.  And although most people in the West don’t realize it, the swastika is still a revered symbol for billions of Asians, for whom it signifies good luck and good will.”

He said the Raelian Movement launched an offshoot group, the ProSwastika Alliance, with the goal of uniting all religions that cherish the swastika, and noted that it is cherished by Raelians since it intertwines with a six-pointed star to form the Raelian symbol.

“501c3 tax exemption status for the alliance is pending,” Kaenzig said. “We’ve submitted the IRS application.”

There is no word from the IRS on the application's status.

Needless to say, taking a symbol that was widely used in connection with mass murder and "rehabilitating" it through rebranding may very well be impossible.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Stock Image on ObamaCare Site Invites Scorn, Ridicule on Amateur Model

Aspiring models, be warned.

Now that the initial launch of the federal "ObamaCare" website has been declared an unmitigated logistical disaster, an odd intellectual property issue has been mentioned by bloggers and political pundits:  the rights of the models depicted in the stock photography used on the site.

When launched live on October 1, tens of millions of Americans visited the site to view an ethnically ambiguous, attractive 20-something woman smiling back, promising affordable health care.  "ObamaCare Girl" is precisely the target demographic that the administration is hoping sign up for health care.

Fox News called the smiling woman depicted in the stock photograph "mysterious," writing that "she smiles back at countless frustrated Americans as they tried to log onto the ObamaCare website."  The Washington Times dubbed her "Glitch Girl," and created a pseudo-mystery around her identity.

Since its launch, the website has crashed repeatedly, leading Congressional leaders to demand an accounting for the $300M dollars that have been spent on the website so far, given that few applicants have been satisfactorily able to sign up through the portal.

The unknown model whose face was used on the site may not be pleased with the newfound notoriety, but may have no legal recourse.

"Stock" photography is offered commercially by a wide variety of sources, such as Getty Images, Corbis, and  For an appropriate license fee, any user can easily download and use stock images for a variety of applications, including blogs and websites.

When objects depicted in the stock images are inanimate, the only release that is secured by the distributor is a license or assignment from the photographer.  Photographers are paid a scaled fee based on, among other things, the number of times that their images are downloaded and used.

However, when models are used in the images, the photographer typically secures a standard "release," which grants the licensees (including the distributors and end users) the right to pretty much plaster the image all over their websites and blogs.

The models essentially agree to release any claims that they might otherwise have for invasion of privacy, or appropriation of likeness under states' laws, in exchange for a nominal sum received from the photographer. In most cases, amateur models are paid very little to nothing per image, and give up all rights to control how their likenesses are used.

In the case of the anonymous woman whose face ended up appearing on a website viewed by millions of annoyed Americans, that notoriety might have been more than she bargained for.

The New York Daily News has noted that the image of ObamaCare Girl has now been removed, only to be replaced by stale graphics.

Friday, September 27, 2013

U.S. Trademark Office Could Shut Down Within Weeks

USPTO Headquarters in Virginia
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office only has enough reserve cash to avoid shutting down completely for "a few weeks," according to a top agency official.

Deputy Director Teresa Stanek told the agency's employees that the agency has enough leftover fee collections from prior years to operate as usual for "at least a few weeks," in the event the federal government does not manage to pass a law increasing the debt limit, which is reached on October 1.

The agency largely funds itself without the need for congressional funds by generating filing fees, but would nonetheless run out of cash and only be able to maintain IT functions in the event of a shutdown.

Congress is in the midst of a deep partisan divide over how to avert the shutdown, with a faction of Republicans in the House joined by a few Republican Senators both trying to use fear of the shutdown as leverage to de-fund the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

"Stop Islamization" Trademark Refused: Applicants Decry Political Correctness in Appeal

Image on AFDI Website
A U.S. federal trademark application for an anti-sharia law campaign known as "STOP ISLAMIZATION OF AMERICA" was filed by a group called the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), a pro-Israel group founded by controversial bloggers/commentators Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller.

The AFDI had been behind a grassroots movement that sought to stop the building of a mosque in lower Manhattan, near the Ground Zero World Trade Center site, claiming that the act would offend 9/11 victims' families.

Critics such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League have accused the AFDI of being an anti-Muslim hate group, alleging that it promotes a conspiratorial anti-Muslim agenda under the guise of fighting radical Islam" and "seeks to rouse public fear by consistently villifying the Islamic faith and asserting the existence of an Islamic conspiracy to destroy 'American' values." 

The Trademark Office refused the group's application for a trademark on the basis that it "consists of or includes matter which may disparage or bring into contempt or disrepute persons, institutions, beliefs or national symbols."

The Trademark Office ruled that it must apply a two factor legal test, asking: (1) What is the likely meaning of the matter in question; and (2) is that meaning referring to identifiable persons, institutions, beliefs or national symbols, and whether that meaning is disparaging to a substantial composite of the referenced group.

The Trademark Examiner concluded that, applying this test, the likely meaning of ISLAMIZATION refers to the act of converting to Islam, and that the proposed mark effectively disparages Muslims by implying that conformity to Islam is something that needs to be stopped.

The Trademark Office cited several cases supposedly supporting its conclusion.

However, on further examination, the cases that the Examiner cited were not necessarily relevant or helpful to its case, such as when the Trademark Office found THE MEMPHIS MAFIA for entertainment services not to be matter that disparages Italian-Americans or bring them into contempt or disrepute.

The group appealed the Examiner's final refusal to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB), which affirmed the rejection.

Now, the group has appealed this decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which hears appeals from final Trademark Office refusals to register trademarks.

In the appeal brief, the AFDI's lawyer argues that:

"Appellants [Geller and Spencer] are sympathetic to the USPTO’s politically correct sensitivities enticing it to protect Muslims and indeed Islam itself from even the slightest hint of disparagement in the form of public criticism, especially in the post-9/11 age with global terrorism conducted daily in the name of Islam and the Arab Spring featuring the Muslim Brotherhood’s Islamisation program for Egypt and elsewhere melting into murder and mayhem.

The problem with these sensitivities as applied to the denial of Appellants’ Mark is that the USPTO’s beef is not with Appellants or their Mark, but rather with terrorists who claim to speak in the name of all of Islam and all Muslims.  Appellants’ Mark does not.  

One of the AFDI's NYC MTA Advertisements
'Stop the Islamisation of America' has a specific meaning that Muslims and non-Muslims in America and indeed throughout the West embrace if they treasure liberty and religious freedom for all.  In a zeal to take on the role of parens patriae and to protect Muslims from every insult, the USPTO and the TTAB have both ignored the factual record and have simply assumed meanings and understandings of the terms of the Mark that have no factual or evidentiary basis.  There is no substantial evidence to support the TTAB’s Decision or the USPTO’s denial of the Mark."

The USPTO has yet to file its response.

The AFDI has seen its fair share of federal litigation and previously triumphed. For example, in a federal lawsuit that it filed against the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), the group succeeded in forcing the MTA to carry its advertisements on the sides of New York City buses and in the subways.

The MTA had rejected the group's advertisements, purportedly on the basis that they "demeaned" Muslims.  

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

President Obama's "IP Czar" Steps Down After Four Successful Years

Victoria Espinel, President Obama's "IP Czar," has stepped down from her role four years after she was confirmed by the Senate as the U.S. intellectual property enforcement coordinator.

Until the President nominates a successor who is confirmed by the Senate, Howard Shelanski, the administrator of the office of information and regulatory affairs at the Office of Management and Budget, will serve as acting IP coordinator.

Espinel's position had been created by the Pro-IP Act, signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2008.  The position was intended to serve as a liaison and coordinator for the wide variety of federal, state and local agencies involved in intellectual property matters.  

Espinel's efforts to improve coordination of law enforcement efforts and private-public partnerships were uniformly lauded by stakeholders including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, labor unions and consumer groups.  In the most recent 2013 Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement, Espinel had been a proponent of strengthening IP enforcement through international coordination and encouraging "best practices" by intermediaries such as search engines, advertisers and payment processors.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Is Republican Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan Pro-Techie?

Congressman Ryan with President Barack Obama
Now that former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has declared Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan to be his running mate in the fall Presidential election, both the pro-tech crowd and the pro-IP crowd are checking their file histories to see where he stands on hot button issues relevant to their particular industries.

Mostly, Ryan's views are in line with the current Administration, according to TechCrunch, which declares that he has "(mostly) been a friend to technology."

Interestingly, Ryan switched his views on the Stop Online Piracy Act ("SOPA"), going from supporting it to opposing it midstream, reportedly after Reddit waged a campaign to get him to change his vote. Ryan seems to oppose Net Neutrality, at least according to Wired.

Overall, it would seem to be a consensus that he is a pro-techie VP candidate, which is in contrast with the current Vice President, who has more in common with the content creator/Hollywood community than the techie crowd.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

US Marine Corps Logo Stripped After Trademark Issue Surfaces

John Brunner, who proudly served in the U.S. Marine Corps as an Infantry Officer and rose to the rank of Captain, is running for a U.S. Senate seat in Missouri as a Republican.

Brunner had apparently placed the U.S. Marine Corps logo on the back of his campaign bus. 

However, the Marine Corp's logo is federally registered as a trademark, and the Corps clearly frowns on the use of the proud logo for unauthorized commercial or political purposes.

Here is an excerpt from the U.S. Marine Corp's Frequently Asked Questions about its licensing program:

I'm running for a political office and am a former Marine. 
Can I use Marine Corps trademarks on my campaign materials?  
No, you may not use the official Marine Corps Seal, Eagle, Globe and Anchor (EGA), or any other USMC insignia or trademark in this manner, since it might create the impression that your candidacy is endorsed by or affiliated with the USMC in some way, or that the USMC has chosen your candidacy over other candidates. 
You are more than welcome, to simply and accurately state that you are a Marine Corps veteran, that's fine, that's a fact. 
But using the EGA which is a trademark of the USMC, and protected by Federal law (please see 10 USC 7881) is something you may not do. 
This is consistent with the Marine Corps Uniform Regulations which clearly states that the wearing of the uniform in a political context is strictly prohibited. Please see Section 11002(1)(a)(2) and (3) of the Marine Corps Uniform Regulations.
The trademark issue had surfaced when local reporters questioned the propriety of Brunner using the logo on his campaign bus under federal laws.
In a statement to local news on Saturday, Brunner's Press Secretary John Sutter said "The campaign believes that the RV does not constitute campaign materials, but we will remove the sticker just to be cautious."

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Chick-fil-A Gay Marriage Controversy: When Brands and Politics Collide

The Cathy Family / Chick-fil-A Website
Privately-owned, Georgia-based fast food chain Chick-fil-A is apparently not afraid of courting controversy.  

Company President Dan Cathy recently gave an interview to the Baptist Press in which he said he was "guilty as charged" in support of what he called the biblical definition of a family.  

This was not a slip of the tongue.  Indeed, on the Chick-fil-A corporate website, Mr. Cathy's biography confirms that his "personal passion" is "to glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us."

As evidenced by these statements, Chick-fil-A represents a "red brand," that is, a mainstream consumer brand that appeals to some purchasers by openly espousing principles that tend to fall on the conservative/Republican end of the political spectrum.

According to a recent survey, which confirmed previous findings published by AdAge in 2010, political viewpoints strongly affect consumer loyalty and perceptions.  And there are plenty of brands to go around, regardless of your particular political viewpoint.

Studies consistently show that "Blue brands," or those top companies favored by liberals/Democrats include Google, Sony, Johnson & Johnson, JetBlue and Ben & Jerry's.
Ben & Jerry's "Occupy Wall Street" Banner / Ben & Jerry's Website

Most of the time, these brands' outward expression of philosophical principles that overlap with political views still allow them to prosper by maintaining a strong customer base by remaining loyal to those principles without significantly alienating those who share a different viewpoint.  The simple reality is that Ben & Jerry's viewpoints, no matter how controversial, simply haven't negatively affected overall sales of their popular flavors.

But sometimes, mixing consumerism with politics can turn ugly.  And Chick-fil-A has become a case in point.

Mr. Cathy's interview led to the fast food chain's expansion facing significant, vocal opposition from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, who has called the chain a direct insult to gays, and has informed the company that it is simply not welcome in Boston.

Putting aside the First Amendment implications of these threats, it is clear that when a brand wades too deeply into political waters, there can be undesirable economic consequences.