Trademark Law: Could it be Used as a Weapon Against Neo-Nazis?

by | Sep 20, 2017 | Business Law

With countless protests by neo-Nazis and members of the KKK reaching the major news channels recently, many people are becoming more concerned about what they can do to stop these types of events. Recently, it was reported that trademark law may be an effective weapon against these groups. If you are confused about how this is possible, read more here.

Imagine if you are a corporate executive and you wake up one Monday morning to see a whirlwind of media images capturing violent protests of neo-Nazis, the KKK and other white supremacist groups. In addition to information about what happened, you also see your company’s trademarked logo across the TV, in newspapers and online being worn by these undesirable groups. If you are like most, that undeniable sinking feeling is likely going to hit. However, with trademark law considerations, you may be able to take action.

The Effect of Trademark Law, Your Rights and Stopping Infringement

Recently, the event described above is one that actually occurred in Charlottesville during the “Unite the Right” protests. A group of enterprising, Michigan-based neo-Nazis co-opted the logo of the Detroit Red Wings for their insignia. The group, which was actually known as the “Detroit Right Wings”, copied the logo and replaced the wheel’s spokes with the repeating “SS” symbol.

Proving the Infringement Based on Current Trademark Law

If the Detroit NHL franchise tried to bring about a conventional trademark infringement charge, they may have issues winning the case. After all, you have to prove the “likelihood of confusion” in these situations. This is commonly referred to as “passing off”, which is the act of passing the junior party’s services/goods as emanating from the senior user. Because it would be difficult to prove that a consumer was confused into actually joining the neo-Nazi group believing that it had been sanctioned by the NHL team, success in court would be highly unlikely.

However, thanks to the Federal Antidilution Act of 2006, the trademark owner now has the right to sue for the dilution of the trademark due to tarnishing it. The idea behind trademark dilution is that a non-authorized user has appropriated a person’s or company’s registered mark for what would be otherwise non-infringing, but it is still causing harm to the original brand through blurring or tarnishing the trademark.

Hiring an Attorney for Trademark Law Help

There is no question that any case similar to the one described above would require help from a trademark law attorney. These can be complex and involve quite a few hurdles. If you are facing a similar situation, contact the team of attorneys at the Law Office of Peter M. Feaman, P.A. by calling 561-469-0019.

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