Jul 21 2008

The Elephant Lives! RNC Backs Down on Cease and Desist order to Cafepress

Published by at 11:59 pm under Cafepress

RNC Crumbles under pressure and agrees to allow Cafepress shopkeepers to use the GOP acronym and elephant logo on T-shirts, stickers and other merchandise. Sort of. The exception being any designs that are only the acronym “GOP” or stylized Elephant which the RNC is demanding Cafepress shop owners secure a license from the committee. Levy, who says this agreement is the result of recent RNC and CP negotiations, expected the licenses would be free.

According to the blog, Wired, “The agreement, (.pdf) for example, would not require a license to sell a shirt with a design portraying a GOP-trademarked elephant trailed by two smaller elephants and the words, “I’m raising my children right.” Before the deal, the committee maintained such a depiction was a trademark violation.

According to a letter from Paul Alan Levy, Public Citizen Litigation Group, “Cafepress is prepared to send notices to those users …whose designs consist solely of your trademarked elephant design or the letters GOP, either with nothing else in the design or with nothing in the design besides non-expressive borders (such as a dark circle).” He continues the letter with,”We make this proposal even though we do not agree you have the right to demand licensing for these purposes, just as you do not agree that Cafepress can escape liability without licensing…”

What is Cafepress saying about the recall of this C&D?

According to the CPBlog:

We figured that there’s got to be something in our Constitution that would guarantee our shopkeepers the right to speak openly about political issues…

The RNC wanted us to remove designs that were both supportive of Republicans and critical of Republicans.

After this story hit the press, the RNC agreed to retract its threats of trademark litigation on the following terms:

  • CafePress will not remove any of the content the RNC complained about.
  • CafePress will send a notice to the shopkeepers whose content was listed in the RNC’s original complaint and whose designs consist solely of the precise trademarked elephant (displayed at right), the acronym GOP, or the trademarked elephant or acronym GOP with a border.
  • The notice will inform these shopkeepers about the RNC’s licensing procedure, and those particular shopkeepers will be required to use the RNC’s licensing process within a reasonable period of time.
  • CafePress will monitor our shopkeepers’ progress through the RNC’s licensing system, and CafePress reserves all of its rights in the event that our shopkeepers have problems obtaining licenses to use the RNC’s trademarks.

While we feel that the RNC’s registered trademarks are a vital part of the political discourse in this country, this compromise seemed reasonable. The vast majority of our shopkeepers’ designs are super expressive and consist of much more than just the trademarked elephant or the acronym GOP.

We certainly believe that the RNC’s registered trademarks “assume a role outside the bounds of trademark law” because they are a vital part of this country’s political discourse.

Thanks to all of our wonderfully creative and expressive shopkeepers, the bloggers, and tweet-happy elephant fans.

Also, a HUGE thank you to Paul Alan Levy, I am sure we would not have had such a quick and successful outcome without his superb representation and advocacy and the support of Public Citizen”

As a shopkeeper and affiliate myself, I would like to also extend my thanks to Cafepress for sticking to this and not letting the shopkeepers down! Thank YOU Cafepress!

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