Sweet! Now to get those t-shirts out.

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Public Citizen | Press Room - Federal Court Rejects Wal-Martâ..s Trademark Claim Against Web Critic

A federal judge today upheld a Georgia manâ..s First Amendment right to criticize Wal-Martâ..s business practices by using satire to compare its destructive effects on communities to both the Holocaust and al-Qaeda terrorists.

In rejecting the companyâ..s claim of trademark infringement, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in Atlanta found that Charles Smithâ..s parody Web sites (www.walocaust.com and www.walqaeda.com) and related novelty merchandise were protected speech and that a reasonable person would not confuse their use with Wal-Martâ..s legitimate trademarks. The court also rejected Wal-Martâ..s claim that it has trademark rights in the â..smiley-faceâ. that Smith used in one of his parodies.

Public Citizen and the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia Foundation defended Smith after Wal-Mart sued the Conyers, Ga. man in 2006, claiming he infringed on its trademark by creating parody logos and Web sites built around the â..Walocaustâ. and â..Wal-Qaedaâ. concepts, including the image of an eagle clutching a yellow smiley face, similar to the one Wal-Mart uses in advertising. Smith also put the design on T-shirts, bumper stickers and other items that he sold on CafePress.com.

Judge Timothy C. Batten Sr.â..s decision reaffirms an important point of trademark law â.. that even though a parody is placed on a T-shirt and sold, it nevertheless represents non-commercial speech that is fully protected by the First Amendment and, thus, is not a proper basis for a trademark action, said Paul Alan Levy, a Public Citizen attorney, who represented Smith along with Gerald Weber of Atlanta.


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