IP Foolishness Infecting Political Coverage

Continuing our proud tradition here at Info/Law of mercilessly spotlighting journalistic cluenessness in matters of intellectual property (all with the best of intentions! right, guys? …guys?), here’s today’s morsel, from “Inside Higher Ed”: Does Clinton Have a Copyright Problem?. The accusation: Senator Clinton has appeared in front of big campaign banners reading “Solutions for America,” which turns out to be a trademark (not a copyright) of the University of Richmond. So let’s broaden the inquiry beyond the headline and ask, does Clinton have an IP problem?

There are, to be sure, gray areas in IP law. This isn’t one of them.

  • Copyright law doesn’t protect words and short phrases, such as “Solutions for America.”
  • Trademark infringement occurs only where the defendant uses the plaintiff’s mark in commerce (irrespective of whether we are talking about sections 32 or 43(a) of the Lanham Act), so a political rally clearly wouldn’t qualify.

So, better luck next time, “Inside Higher Ed”! But thanks for playing.

One Response to “IP Foolishness Infecting Political Coverage”

  1. Another sad case of the “chilling effect” of societies emerging sense of “copyright correctness.” Librarians and university counsel, who are both risk adverse are other groups who sometimes chill experimentations and use of multi-media or even traditional texts in education.