Judge Recused In University Of Kentucky V. Kentucky Mist Moonshine Case Because He's A Kentucky Grad
from the getting-out-of-hand dept
We were just discussing the University of Kentucky’s asshat-ish bullying attempts concerning Kentucky Mist Moonshine’s gall in selling hats and t-shirts featuring the distillery’s name and logo. The whole episode has been entirely silly from the outset, with the school essentially declaring itself the sole owner of the name of its home state for the purposes of its use on apparel. This attempt to throw aside even the question of actual customer confusion made the whole thing a strange power-play against a distillery, with some questioning how a trademark over a state’s name could be granted in the first place. Kentucky Mist itself filed a lawsuit against the school, requesting that the trademark it has chosen to flaunt so brazenly be either declared invalid entirely or reformed to protect the school only against any attempts to actually be associated with the school as opposed to the state of Kentucky.
Again: none of this should be happening. If the University of Kentucky had simply kept its nose out of an unrelated business’ business, no suit would have been filed. But now, as the silliness continues, we get news that the judge originally assigned to preside over the case has recused himself. Why? Because he’s a graduate of UK.
Jim Francis, Kentucky Mist’s attorney, had on Monday filed the motion for recusal, citing [Judge] Hood’s status as a graduate of UK and its college of law. In addition, Francis said in his motion, Hood is a university donor designated as a UK Fellow and a member of the UK Alumni Association.
I can understand why Kentucky Mist would want the most impartial judge possible for its case, especially when Judge Hood was in some way affiliated with a school that has proven to be a complete bully on the very question the court was to decide. Still, I keep coming back to the fact that we shouldn’t even be here. The fallout from the USPTO’s unwillingness to cast a critical eye when it comes to trademark registrations is what’s impacting all of this. If, instead of granting UK a trademark on the state-name “Kentucky” for apparel back in 1997, it had instead applied some critical thinking and understood what a massive problem such general and common-word trademarks might present, no recusal would have been necessary.
Instead, another judge will be assigned, and we might get the outcome, through the challenge of the trademark, that should have occurred back in the nineties.