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.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.
“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.
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!