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.

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Comments on “RNC To Sue CafePress For Helping People Promote Republican Candidates”

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jonnyq says:

Re: 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.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: 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.

Willton says:

Re: 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.

hegemon13 says:

Re: 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.

Joe says:

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

BaasGaas says:

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.

Jake says:

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.)

Freedom says:

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!


AJ says:


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.

JT says:

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.

John (profile) says:

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”?

The T-Zone (user link) says:

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”.

Traume (user link) says:

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!

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