Using Trademark Law To Stop Free Speech
from the first,-we-shoot-all-the... dept
The folks over at Public Citizen Litigation Group continue to fight the good fight against corporations and lawyers who are clearly misusing trademark law to bully individuals or organizations they don’t like. This is the same group who we recently covered supporting a woman who dared to sell the shampoo bottle on eBay that she had legally bought, and the law firm who was accused of trademark infringement by a railway company for having paintings of various trains (which they commissioned) shown on their website. In that case, it was clearly not a trademark violation at all (you can use trademarks in art), but one where the railway firm was upset that the law firm helped in cases involving injured railway employees. It seems that same sort of thinking is at work in the latest legal issue Public Citizen is involved in. It revolves around an environmental group that created an effigy of the governor of Texas kissing a smokestack. On the smokestack were the logos of various firms accused of polluting. It’s pretty clear protest speech, and hardly a violation of trademark, but don’t try explaining that to the lawyers who sent the nastygram to the group. When Public Citizen’s Paul Alan Levy sent a letter to the company’s lawyer, re-explaining the basics of trademark law (especially the part about how it’s perfectly legal to use a company’s logo in criticizing that company), the lawyer simply responded to Levy by saying he “looked forward to meeting [him] personally.” Why let something like the actual law get in the way of intimidation tactics?