Trademark Law

'Stop the Islamization of America' is disparaging and can't be trademarked, Federal Circuit says


The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has refused a trademark for the phrase “Stop the Islamization of America” because it is disparaging to Muslims.

The Federal Circuit ruled on Tuesday against blogger Pamela Geller, who founded a group by that name and runs a website called “Stop! Islamization of America.” The Wall Street Journal Law Blog, Reuters and the Washington Post have stories. How Appealing links to the opinion (PDF) and other coverage.

The ruling is based on a section of the Trademark Act that allows refusal of a trademark for matters that “may disparage … persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols, or bring them into contempt, or disrepute.” A footnote in the decision notes that the parties alternate between the spelling “Islamization” and “Islamisation.” The opinion uses both spellings.

Geller was in the news for opposing construction of a mosque in New York City near the site of the World Trade Center. The Southern Poverty Law Center views Stop Islamization of America as a hate group, the Post says. She commented on the ruling in an email to Reuters.

“This is a complete whitewash and we knew we would be up against the PC (politically correct) bias in the court,” Geller wrote. “This is clear ongoing evidence of how the federal government and especially the courts, bend over backwards, kowtow and placate Muslim sensitivities.”

Law professor Eugene Volokh of the University of California at Los Angeles says his “tentative view” is that the exclusion of disparaging trademarks should be seen as unconstitutional. “But I’m not sure that courts will ultimately see this my way,” he writes at his blog, the Volokh Conspiracy.

Legal experts believe the case has implications for the fight over the name of the Washington Redskins, Reuters says.

The case is In re Geller and Spencer.

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