NAACP Wins Trademark Infringement and Dilution Case
Posted on April 25, 2014
United States District Court Judge Raymond A. Jackson for the Eastern District of Virginia at Norfolk issued an order finding that the anti-abortion group, The Radiance Foundation, was liable for trademark infringement and trademark dilution of the federally protected trademarks “NAACP" and the name "National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.”
In reaching his decision, Judge Jackson entered a permanent injunction prohibiting the anti-abortion group “against any use of ‘National Association for the Abortion of Colored People’ that creates a likelihood of confusion or dilution as to any National Association for the Advancement of Colored People trademarks,” and furthermore ordered the Radiance Foundation to pay the NAACP’s court costs.
This case stemmed from The Radiance Foundation’s intentional misuse use of the NAACP’s name and logo in postings on its website wherein it referred to the NAACP as the "National Association for the Abortion of Colored People." On February 1, 2014, in response to a cease and desist letter sent by the NAACP, The Radiance Foundation and its co-founder, Ryan Bomberger, filed a lawsuit in Federal Court seeking a declaratory judgment that its altered use of the NAACP name was protected free speech or amounted to a mere parody. The NAACP filed a counterclaim arguing that The Radiance Foundation’s use of its federally registered “NAACP” trademark, in close association with the name “National Association for the Abortion of Colored People,” constituted trademark infringement and dilution in violation of both Virginia law and the Lanham Act.
NAACP General Counsel, Kim Keenan, responded to the Court’s decision, stating that “this is a major victory in the protection of our trademark and should serve as notice that organizations who misuse the Association’s federally protected trademarks to advance their own goals and messages will be held accountable.” Noting the court’s recognition that “Radiance is not prevented from criticizing the NAACP's positions or activities,” Ms. Keenan added that “although Radiance and Mr. Bomberger are entitled to their opinions, they cannot assert their opinion by misusing the NAACP brand in a manner intended to confuse and mislead the public and tarnish the reputation of this 105 year old organization. The NAACP is entitled to defend its trademark like any other famous organizations known by their initials.”