Saturday, February 24, 2007

Another good example is Nader v. Mastercard on "priceless"

As pointed out in the new film, "An Unreasonable Man" (2007, IFC), MasterCard had sued "geek laywer" and consumer protection activist Ralph Nader (that is, MasterCard International v. Nader, 00civ-6068) back in August 2000 for Nader's "Priceless" campaign, where Nader usedand "spoofed" the Mastercard slogan and logo to call attention to the practice of corporate interests buying political candidates' positions on issues, before and during his 2000 run for president. The charges had included trademark dilution, unfair competition, and copyright infringement.

In 2004, a trial court ruled that Nader's practice was "fair use" under copyright law as parody and did not violate commercial trademark law. Here is a discussion at LawGeek. Fish & Richardson defended Nader. Here is another summary at Standord. At issue is the principle of using a commercial slogan for political and non-commercial purposes. It is significant, as noted in the Stanford article, that no actual dilution had occurred (conceivably new legislation could change that holding if a new case occurred today, although the court also held that likelihood of dilution really did not exist either). Another issue would be whether infringement or trademark dilution occurs when the workmark consists of familiar English words and occurs in a line of difference substantially different from that of the plaintiff (since USPTO recognizes separate lines of trade). This has always been a reliable concept.

Salon's account is also interesting.

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