Monday, February 25, 2008

Trademark troubles on the campaign trail

From today's Inside Higher Ed:
Hillary Clinton’s campaign has of late been pushing charges that Barack Obama plagiarized some phrases in his campaign speeches.

But what about one of Clinton’s favorite phrases: “Solutions for America"? It’s the name for many of her campaign events. Today will feature “Solutions for America” rallies by the campaign in Ohio, and the phrase has appeared as backdrop for many campaign rallies. It turns out, however, that an organization other than the Clinton campaign has the rights to the phrase.

“Solutions for America” is the registered trademark of a University of Richmond program with the Pew Charitable Trusts to help local communities work on a series of social problems. The emphases of the program — promoting child health, reviving neighborhoods, creating jobs — have considerable overlap with Clinton campaign themes.

This one's a bit vexing, honestly, as I can see the potential for overlap and, hence, for "confusion in the marketplace"--a primary rubric by which trademark infringement is supposed to be assessed. Here's the rub, though: aren't we talking about two categorically different things here? Isn't Clinton's use of "Solutions for America" a slogan for a political campaign--something that shouldn't, in theory, exist in the marketplace per se? Now, I understand there's a tremendous marketing dimension to Presidential campaigns, but isn't the end of all that supposed to be about elected leadership and public service, not buying and selling? Or has politics become so commercial that we cannot but conflate the two anymore?

Anyway, you can read the complete article here.

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