Common Dreams NewsCenter

We Can't Do It Without You!
 

Home | About Us | Donate | Signup | Archives | Search

Home > Progressive Community > NewsWire > For Immediate Release
   
Printer Friendly Version E-Mail This Article
   
Public Citizen: Federal Court Rejects Wal-Mart’s Trademark Claim Against Web Critic

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 21, 2008
3:42 PM

CONTACT: Public Citizen
citizen.org

 
Federal Court Rejects Wal-Mart’s Trademark Claim Against Web Critic
Public Citizen Argued First Amendment Protects Parody of Company’s Logos
 

WASHINGTON, DC - March 21 - A federal judge today upheld a Georgia man’s First Amendment right to criticize Wal-Mart’s business practices by using satire to compare its destructive effects on communities to both the Holocaust and al-Qaeda terrorists.

In rejecting the company’s claim of trademark infringement, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in Atlanta found that Charles Smith’s parody Web sites (www.walocaust.com and www.walqaeda.com) and related novelty merchandise were protected speech and that a reasonable person would not confuse their use with Wal-Mart’s legitimate trademarks. The court also rejected Wal-Mart’s claim that it has trademark rights in the “smiley-face” that Smith used in one of his parodies.

Public Citizen and the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia Foundation defended Smith after Wal-Mart sued the Conyers, Ga. man in 2006, claiming he infringed on its trademark by creating parody logos and Web sites built around the “Walocaust” and “Wal-Qaeda” concepts, including the image of an eagle clutching a yellow smiley face, similar to the one Wal-Mart uses in advertising. Smith also put the design on T-shirts, bumper stickers and other items that he sold on CafePress.com.

Judge Timothy C. Batten Sr.’s decision reaffirms an important point of trademark law – that even though a parody is placed on a T-shirt and sold, it nevertheless represents non-commercial speech that is fully protected by the First Amendment and, thus, is not a proper basis for a trademark action, said Paul Alan Levy, a Public Citizen attorney, who represented Smith along with Gerald Weber of Atlanta.

“This ruling shows that even the biggest company in America is subject to parody, and that trademark rights must yield to the right of free speech,” Levy said. “This is a resounding victory for First Amendment rights and sends a clear message to big corporations that would try to use their deep pockets to intimidate and silence their critics.”

Although Wal-Mart spent more than $200,000 on an “expert” witness to prove that consumers seeing these parody T-shirts were likely to be confused, the judge properly recognized that the expert’s testimony was junk science and flew in the face of common sense. 

READ the decision.

LEARN more about Internet free speech.

###

Printer Friendly Version E-Mail This Article
Common Dreams NewsCenter is a non-profit news service
providing breaking news and views for the Progressive Community.

The press release posted here has been provided to Common Dreams NewsWire by one of the many progressive organizations who make up America's Progressive Community. If you wish to comment on this press release or would like more information, please contact the organization directly.
*all times Eastern US (GMT-5:00)

Making News?
Read our Guidelines for Submitting News Releases

CommonDreams.org is an Internet-based progressive news and grassroots activism organization, founded in 1997.
We are a nonprofit, progressive, independent and nonpartisan organization.

Home | About Us | Donate | Signup | Archives | Search

To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good.


www.commondreams.org