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RNC To Sue CafePress For Helping People Promote Republican Candidates

from the seriously? dept

Apparently, a few years back, the Republican National Committee trademarked its elephant logo, along with "GOP", "Grand Old Party", and "Republican National Committee." And, here we are in an election year, and they're out trying to enforce those trademarks... against people who are trying to support the GOP and its candidates. Paul Alan Levy, from Public Citizen, who is representing CafePress in this case, writes in to let us know that the RNC has threatened to sue CafePress because some users of CafePress have created shirts that include the RNC elephant and the term GOP. You could almost (almost) understand this, if the shirts were negative. But, no, most of them were actually created by people who are Republicans or support Republican candidates. There's also the question of why its threatening CafePress, rather than the individuals who actually used the logo and the term. But, still, in an election year when the candidates seem to be shoving each other aside to try to embrace the online community and its ethic of "user generated content" perhaps someone should let the RNC know that suing the folks enabling your supporters to promote your candidates might not be the smartest move.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jul 17th, 2008 @ 4:16pm

    Aside from the idiocy of enforcing your trademark against your own members, I have to wonder if the trademark is legit. The Elephant, "GOP" moniker etc., were created by other people a hundred years ago. Can they really co-op them like that?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 4:36pm

    How would this affect them if they did not enforce their trademark? The yellowpages logo wasn't enforced, and now everyone can use it.

     

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  3.  
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    Beefcake, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 4:46pm

    Tactics

    Paul Alan Levy should just refuse to testify.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
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    Rick, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 4:48pm

    Does the RIAA run the GOP now?

    What a way to sue your supporters. May the party die off as it should have years ago....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 5:01pm

    I know, intellectually, that there are smart republicans. Statistics, averages and all...

    But stories like this tend to confirm what my heart says: conservatives are greedy inbred morons.

    Sorry, it had to come out.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 5:11pm

    All the Republicans need is a group of left wing nitwits pretending to be Republicans and attempting to help by generating one political boogie boo after another.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    Joe, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 5:29pm

    Where there's brand recognition, there is certainly going to be brand protection.

    Much like you could put up a sign in your yard that is spray painted "Go Steelers!", there is nothing wrong with that. But try to market stuff using their trademarked name, logo or even colors and you can bet the lawyers will be calling you the next day.

    That said, I love the idea of the GOP imploding

     

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  8.  
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    teknosapien, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 5:56pm

    moron alert

    and these people are running the country ?
    Don't we as the American people, actually own these dweebs
    dont they actually work for US?

     

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  9.  
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    jonnyq, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 7:23pm

    Re:

    I think I agree with you on the term "GOP", but I think I disagree on the logo itself. While the elephant moniker has been around forever, the specific logo design is relatively new.

    By using that trademark, it may imply that the RNC actually endorses the message on the shirt. Take this one for example: here. Even though it's pro-Republican, it may not convey a message that the RNC endorses, and therefore shouldn't bear the RNC's trademark.

    I'm not an expert on trademarks, but if the item is just a statement of fact, such as a photo that happens to have a logo in it, or a work of satire, is it a legal use of a trademark. For example, is this one legal? I think it might be. So the irony is that the anti-GOP ones may actually be more legal if I'm right.

    Still, it's silly to sue CafePress instead of just asking nicely according to their own policy. If CafePress doesn't follow their policy, that would be kinda dumb, and possibly infringement.

    Just put a "swoosh" or a Mickey Mouse silhouette where the elephant goes and think about it that way.

    It just sucks that lawyers jump straight to the most blunt tool in the toolbox.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    Jake, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 7:26pm

    From a purely legal standpoint, CafePress are in the wrong for making money off someone else's trademark; I'm surprised this isn't prohibited by their terms and conditions. I can also see why the RNC might want to assert some control over what their logo gets used in conjunction with, as someone wearing one of these t-shirts on a march by the Aryan Brotherhood or something might result in some embarrassing photographs. (And yes, I know it's utterly asinine to take something like that to be representative of the views of the Republican Party as a whole, but Democrat supporters can be morons too.)

     

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  11.  
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    Freedom, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 7:44pm

    It's a party, not a commercial enterprise...

    This may not be "the law", but when you are talking about a political party, you should have no copyrights or trademarks or whatever to try and earn passive income off of. Just doesn't pass the smell test.

    And to think, all this time I thought the GOP was against welfare!

    Freedom

     

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  12.  
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    the stupidity, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 8:09pm

    wow

    politics in Latin means many blood sucking creature's and now they're trying to suck the life out of those who support them

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    PaulT (profile), Jul 18th, 2008 @ 2:23am

    Re: Re:

    If it's the message on a few shirts that's not endorsed, why not negotiate with CafePress and ask them to remove a few specific shirts? Resorting to a lawsuit based on overall use of the logo still makes them look thuggish and counter-productive even if their basic reasoning is sound...

    Use of the Nike or Disney logos would be different, as those corporations are on an ongoing quest for pure profit. The GOP is supposedly trying to win over as many hearts and minds for a specific date in a few short months - the trademark battle shouldn't be as important as what happens on that date. At best, they've just offended a few people who might not decide to vote Republican this year, at worst they've removed a valuable campaign resource that cost them nothing.

     

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  14.  
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    The Facts, Jul 18th, 2008 @ 3:42am

    Re:

    If you are 20 years old and a conservative, you have no heart.
    If you are 60 years old and a liberal, you have no brain.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    AJ, Jul 18th, 2008 @ 5:21am

    Maybe

    If you want to enforce your ownership, it is much harder to do if you've let one group get away with it and try to block another. It could be that, to protect against negative use from your enemies, you also have to enforce the same rules for your friends. At work, we can't allow any solicitations -- no Girl Scout cookies, no kids sports team fundraisers, no charities (even the Walk for the Cure!). Once you open the door to any solicitation, you've opened the door to Union solicitation. Probably the same thinking going on here.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    DigitalAngel, Jul 18th, 2008 @ 5:27am

    Re:

    There's a difference between Conservatives and Republicans.

    Most Libertarians are Conservatives.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
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    hegemon13, Jul 18th, 2008 @ 7:05am

    Re:

    Unfortunately, you have made the common mistake of equating Republicans and conservatives. The Republican party has not been remotely conservative for some time. Conservatism means small government and adherance to tradition and the founding principles of the country. I would say that Bush and the current Republican party has proven to be the almost polar opposite of these ideals, with out-of-control spending, ridiculous expansion of federal power, and complete indifference toward upholding the Constitution.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    BaasGaas, Jul 18th, 2008 @ 7:30am

    Re: moron alert

    These people? Do you mean Republicans? If so, then I am not sure you understand US politics. The president has very limited powers in the USA, compared to what powers a President has in other countries. He can do very little without congress, which the last time I looked, is run by the Democrats.

    Regarding this story though - I do not agree with ANY political party owning ANY trademarks. That is pure crap. Someone said something about a person wearing a GOP t-shirt at a KKK-type rally. So what! This is America. You can wear what ever damn t-shirt you want where ever you want.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 18th, 2008 @ 7:39am

    Re: Does the RIAA run the GOP now?

    What a stupid comment. That's what we need, even LESS choice in candidates. It's bad enough that it's only 2 parties but why not hope it dies off... and then maybe ultra liberals can move towards complete socialism.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    ConceptJunkie (profile), Jul 18th, 2008 @ 8:03am

    Re:

    And childish, ad hominem, blanket statements like yours confirm what my heart says too.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    icon
    ConceptJunkie (profile), Jul 18th, 2008 @ 8:05am

    Re: moron alert

    You must be thinking of some fairy-tale country founded in the dark ages of the 18th century. This is America, of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
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    ConceptJunkie (profile), Jul 18th, 2008 @ 8:06am

    Re:

    Childish, blanket, ad hominem statements like yours make my heart say something too. You probably wouldn't like it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    JT, Jul 18th, 2008 @ 8:12am

    Full of shirt

    The few that actually support among the many that just put shirts out to cash in on which ever party is hot at the moment.

    I don't see how this is really supporting them? Does a shirt make you vote one way or another? Do proceeds go to the party or into a "supporters" pocket? Take a good look around at Cafepress, there is a huge amount of people that have shirts out there for both parties and other "stores" that put shirts out with opposing views. It's about making money... if they're using the logo and it's not going into the pockets of the owner, I don't see what the deal is.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    JT, Jul 18th, 2008 @ 8:17am

    Re: Re:

    Well said. I wish other people would think about things in more than one dimension (or think AT ALL?) before posting some of these comments.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 18th, 2008 @ 8:20am

    Re:

    And liberals aren't greedy... to the point of wanting their hands in my pockets to support asshats that don't want to work.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Pachyderm, Jul 18th, 2008 @ 9:06am

    Freedom of Speech

    The GOP is already skating on thin ice and I think the Iceberg is crumbling when they have to reach to such lows as banning the use of Freedom of Speech in T-shirts- How lame!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    John, Jul 18th, 2008 @ 11:50am

    Cafepress should give in

    Cafepress should put up a page that says "No merchandise with Republican logos or symbols are allowed". This may anger some Republican supporters (will they get so angry that they'll vote Democrat?), but if this is how the GOP needs to protect its trademarks and copyrights, then Cafepress should give in.

    On the other hand, if there's such a large market for these kinds of supportive T-shirts, why doesn't the GOP make some official ones of their own? Why not just take down the ones that don't "fit the message"?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Willton, Jul 18th, 2008 @ 2:57pm

    Re:

    Aside from the idiocy of enforcing your trademark against your own members, I have to wonder if the trademark is legit. The Elephant, "GOP" moniker etc., were created by other people a hundred years ago. Can they really co-op them like that?

    Trademarks don't have to be new in order to receive protection.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 19th, 2008 @ 9:58am

    No Shock

    This is no shock. After all, the Republican Party IS the political party of self-worshipping, greedy capitalist pigs.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    The T-Zone, Jul 21st, 2008 @ 5:37am

    T-Zone is on the hunt for Anti-GOP gear!

    Here at the The T-Zone we are on the lookout for cool Anti-GOP gear from the Cafepress Shops- and having a blast seeing what the artists are coming up with in rubuttal to this latest development of the use of the GOP and elephant. I personally must agree with this last post "Republican Party IS the political party of self-worshipping, greedy capitalist pigs".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2008 @ 11:30pm

    Re: No Shock

    And you're a liberal FUCKtard. I have no alliance with either party but it gets God damn old hearing the same shit on both sides of the fence.

    Believe it or not the grass is MUCH greener when you stand in the middle of the field.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2008 @ 11:33pm

    Re: T-Zone is on the hunt for Anti-GOP gear!

    While you worship Obama like he's some kind of fucking god. Too bad liberals fucked the election for the rest of us by going for an ultra-liberal fucking idiot.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    ckale, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 12:46pm

    Re: Re: T-Zone is on the hunt for Anti-GOP gear!

    I was on the fence about Obama, but your pithy comment and hard-hitting use of "fucking" and "fucked" totally made me realize that McCain was the way to go. ::eyeroll:: Way to raise the level of discourse.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    Traume, Aug 19th, 2008 @ 9:55pm

    Okay, I Give... Where's The Hidden Camera

    Talk about fodder for the cannon. This sounds like something cooked up on SNL (trademark'd) or Mad TV (another trademark). What I ought to sell is blank bumper stickers for those of us ashamed to display our republican bumper stickers, then we can cover them up until the moron storm blows over! One more clown climbs outta that GOP car and I'm disowning them!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    the truth, Mar 21st, 2009 @ 10:34pm

    Re: Does the RIAA run the GOP now?

    Fuck you and the liberal marxist piece of shit y0u rode in on, you liberal pussy.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    the truth, Mar 21st, 2009 @ 10:38pm

    Re:

    and you are a piece of shit, pussy marxist liberal fucktard. I know it had to come out, but next time, keep your turds inside until you find a toilet.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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