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Intellectual Property for President 2016

Posted in Copyrights, Infringement, Law Suits, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Trademarks

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The 2016 Presidential election season has produced moments of strife, humor, shock, and even a little magic.  Most importantly, however, this election season has also provided us with plenty of IP fodder.

First, there was a fortuitous discussion of Trump’s brand strength.

Next, we looked at a slew of fresh campaign logos beaming with hope and long-term strategies.  Of course, most of those bumper stickers were not meant to be.

We saw some less than stellar campaign slogans come and go.

We saw a Clinton trademark conundrum arising from an obscure Lanham Act provision.

And there was even a misguided trademark application for a surname.  (Interestingly, John Oliver’s DRUMPF trademark application is currently under rejection for referring to the living individual, Donald Trump, without his consent.  The PTO even cited links to various news articles discussing John Oliver’s DRUMPF campaign.)

Throughout the campaigns, there were multiple copyright infringement claims against various candidates.  Frequently, musicians object to use of their songs at campaign events or in campaign ads.  Public performance of a musical work, without permission, constitutes copyright infringement.  Moreover, use of a particular musician’s work without permission can lead to a false endorsement claim.  Several candidates, and primarily GOP candidates, have faced such allegations, including Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, and Donald Trump, to name a few.

Other copyright infringement allegations have been directed toward the Trump campaign as well.  Earlier this year, a wildlife photographer sued the campaign for the  unauthorized use of an award-winning photo of a bald eagle.  More recently, a photograph of a bowl of candy was subject to a Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notice from the photographer after Donald Trump, Jr. used it in a tweet.  In what appears to be the latest campaign copyright challenge, the City of Phoenix, Arizona, issued a cease and desist letter to the Trump campaign for its unauthorized images of Phoenix uniformed police officers in a campaign ad.  Phoenix objected to the ad on the basis of false endorsement, rights of publicity, and copyright in the officers’ uniforms.

Some candidates have also made news this campaign season for enforcing their IP rights.  At least Trump, Clinton, Sanders, and Carson spent time policing infringement of their trademarks on unauthorized merchandise.

And now to the relief of many, and perhaps the immense trepidation of some, this presidential campaign season is quickly drawing to a close.  It has been nothing if not entertaining–with respect to IP issues, that is.