By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Globe warns Occupy Boston on trademark

The Boston Globe is trying to stop the Occupy Boston demonstrators from using the paper’s name in its own publication, according to Metro Boston reporter Steve Annear. The protesters are planning to start a paper called the Occupy Boston Globe, similar to the Occupied Wall Street Journal in New York. (David Carr of the New York Times wrote about that last week.)

“We do not condone the use of our trademark-protected name and logo by any organization,” Globe spokesman Bob Powers is quoted as telling Annear.

Surely, though, the Globe’s lawyers know the Occupy Boston folks are within their legal rights. The Globe’s trademark prevents a would-be competitor from coming in and starting a newspaper called the Boston Globe. By contrast, the name “Occupy Boston Globe” is a parody of and a commentary on the Globe and on the media in general, expression that is protected by the First Amendment. A major consideration in trademark cases is whether readers might confuse the parody with the original. There doesn’t seem to be much chance of that.

Writing at BostInnovation, Lisa DeCanio reports that Occupy Boston Globe is trying to raise $8,000 to launch a daily and a full-color weekly, the latter of which would be published in English and Spanish. There’s already an online version of the paper, which in turn makes reference to a print edition. So maybe the presses have started to roll.

(Thanks to Greg Reibman, whose tweet alerted me to the Metro Boston story.)

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  1. Stephen Stein

    Is this one of those things you just have to do to show you’re going to defend your trademark, even though you know you’re going to lose?

    I wonder if Matthew Carter (a Cantabrigian who designed the logo) is among the Occupiers? It might be a bit strenuous for him to be there in person, but I wonder where his sympathies lie. (Just a curiosity… I realize his stances are of no legal standing in the matter.)

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Stephen: That’s a good question, and the thought had occurred to me. Many years ago, the Columbia Journalism Review published an article about all those trademark letters newspapers receive (“Be sure to say Jello®!”). Turned out the companies couldn’t have cared less, but that they had to establish a paper trail in case proving they had taken steps to defend their trademark in case a real competitor came along and tried to argue that the name had become generic. On the other hand, as far as I know there hasn’t been a peep out of the Wall Street Journal about the Occupied WSJ.

  2. Wm Smith

    Obviously nobody would confuse the two, but it doesn’t look to me like it’s a parody or a commentary on the Globe that would fall under fair use. The content is all about Occupy Boston; they’re just using the Globe’s logo.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Wm Smith: I would argue that its very existence constitutes parody and/or commentary. But it would probably have to be something that isn’t that long-lived.

  3. peter sullivan

    It seems to me to be a clever ploy to gain more media attention to the cause, whatever it is. Cudos to the Wall Street Journal for not falling for the ploy.

    I was walking home from work today by tent city when one of the sign jockeys followed me down the street telling me to repent over and over?????? For what I have no idea.

    Remember when hippies were cool???

  4. C.E. Stead

    DK – deep down inside – are you SURE readers wouldn’t confuse the parody with the original?

  5. Rick Peterson

    @peter: I was there in 1968. A substantial number were definitely not “cool”. And the WSJ has been repeatedly parodied by better than these pipsqueaks.

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