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Court Rules MoveOn.org Can Use LA Slogan To Criticize Bobby Jindal

from the criticize-on dept

Last month, Tim Cushing wrote about how the Lt. Gov. of Louisiana, Jay Dardenne, had sued Moveon.org over a billboard that used the state's trademarked "Pick your passion!" slogan. The suit was filled with so much technicality-probing nonsense, one wondered how a judge would be able to look through it without needing a couple of long naps. Chief among the claims was that folks seeing the billboard might somehow think the Lt. Governor was responsible for criticizing the Governor, Bobby Jindal, despite the fact the billboard wasn't meant for commercial purposes, criticized the same government Dardenne is a part of, and clearly denotes the responsible party as Moveon.org. It seemed like a pretty clear attempt to stifle criticism over the technicality of a frivolous trademark claim. More egregious, Dardenne wanted the billboard removed while the case was litigated.

Fortunately, while we hear so many stories like this that end up with courts being overprotective of any intellectual property claim, the court has sided with free speech and ruled the billboard will stay up while the trademark claim makes its way through the court.

U.S. Judge Shelly D. Dick, who is over seeing the case, said in an April 7 ruling that forcing the group to take down the sign while the trademark infringement issue is being litigated would deny MoveOn.org its right to free political speech. Dick said while the State of Louisiana’s tourism trademark is a legally protectable mark, the burden of proving trademark infringement is on the state which would have to present more compelling information that the infringement was occurring especially because the billboard was merely expressing a point of view.

“The State argues that viewers of the billboard will be confused into thinking that the Lieutenant Governor, as the alleged owner of the service mark, is being critical of the Governor. In this Court’s view, the Lieutenant Governor underestimates the intelligence and reasonableness of people viewing the billboard,” Dick’s ruling states.
It's an interesting distinction in the ruling, since to disagree would put Dardenne in the uncomfortable position of suggesting his own constituents aren't as intelligent as Judge Dick thinks. In any case, the ruling goes on to note that its the actual citizens of Louisiana that would get to claim ownership of the trademarked slogan, rather than any individual members of the state's government who were the billboard's actual targets, and that no irreparable harm had been proven.

So the billboard stays up and the justice system proves it thinks more of the citizens of Louisiana than some in the state's own government. Meanwhile, a small single billboard continues to find its way into the media spotlight, where it likely never would have found any purchase if the attempt to take it down hadn't been made. Well done all around, Lt. Governor!


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2014 @ 9:41pm

    Sounds like a case of tender toes.

    Lousyanna has always seemed to have been eat up with corruption above and beyond the norm. Why change now?

     

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

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2014 @ 1:35am

    Joke name?

    Just saying, a judge named "Shelly D. Dick" sounds like something out of a crank call.

     

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

  3.  
    icon
    Ellie (profile), Apr 18th, 2014 @ 4:23am

    Judge Shelly

    That was the first thought I had too.

    It is a remarkably unfortunate surname. Bad anglicization maybe? Middle initial "D" doesn't help either...

     

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

  4.  
    icon
    Ellie (profile), Apr 18th, 2014 @ 4:49am

    MoveOn for Louisiana GOP

    I haven't seen the billboard or read the text. Two thoughts:
    1. This is bad precedent by MoveOn. It will open the floodgates for more mudracking political crud, from all parties. I'm tired of that, don't need more. I doubt I'm the only person who is sick of politicized discourse about every little thing.

    2. It doesn't imply any deficiency in voter intelligence to assume that a state's trademarked slogan is used exclusively by that state, or in support of the elected officials (and policies) of that state. The Lt Governor should have taken a "wait and see" attitude, rather than sue. Depending on how the billboard is worded, it might lead viewers to believe that MoveOn is organizing on behalf of the Louisiana GOP. Now wouldn't THAT be ironic!
    :)

     

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

  5.  
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    ottonomy (profile), Apr 18th, 2014 @ 5:58am

    Here's the image:

     

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

  6.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Apr 18th, 2014 @ 6:10am

    Re: Here's the image:

    Just as an FYI, you could also have simply clicked on the link to Cush's original story, which also included the image...

     

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

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2014 @ 6:42am

    Re: MoveOn for Louisiana GOP

    So the billboard stays up and the justice system proves it thinks more of the citizens of Louisiana than some in the state's own government.

    Well, this is a state that passed legislation allowing for a backdoor into the education system to teach intelligent design in science classes...

    It will open the floodgates for more mudracking political crud, from all parties. I'm tired of that, don't need more. I doubt I'm the only person who is sick of politicized discourse about every little thing.

    Hate to say it, but MoveOn might have a valid point to make here. I agree with you on the mud-slinging thing, but even trademarked slogans have to abide by the 'fair use' portion of our laws.

     

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

  8.  
    icon
    Ellie (profile), Apr 18th, 2014 @ 12:32pm

    Re: Here's the image:

    Thank you!

    Waging war on Medicaid... ugh, that isn't good.

     

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

  9.  
    identicon
    Pragmatic, Apr 22nd, 2014 @ 5:50am

    Re: Re: Here's the image:

    Now, now, Ellie, you have the RIGHT to work for a lower wage. It'll give you the edge when competing for jobs you're not qualified for, or something. /sarc

     

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

  10.  
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    Ellie (profile), Apr 22nd, 2014 @ 12:35pm

    Re: Re: MoveOn for Louisiana GOP

    Speaking of LA education, I think they may have seen the light, scales falling from eyes. (Sorry, that was for dramatic effect. I am not a Christian, but love their way with words sometimes).
    I say that with respect to the highly STATIST Common Core, which Gov. Jindal is finally turning away from.

     

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

  11.  
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    Ellie (profile), Apr 22nd, 2014 @ 12:46pm

    Thank you etc for ottonomy

    ottonomy,
    I visited your website from your profile here, after reading that URL to the MoveOn news.

    Wow! You are so kind and introspective, based on what I read. You seem like a very good person, emotionally and ethically. Keep up the great work, and don't doubt yourself!
    * No one here is allowed to poke fun at me for this, okay?

     

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

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2014 @ 3:32am

    Xxxww

     

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


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