West Point Graduates Against the War

Thanks to David Weinberger for dropping the soap on this one today.  The West Point Graduates Against the War have been ordered to cease use of the West Point trademark.  The lying liars prove the West Pointers point, I think.  This from the Mercury News…

West Point spokesman Lt. Col. Kent Cassella said the academy sent the April 12 warning letter because the group failed to go through a licensing process to get permission to use the term “West Point.” The group’s anti-war stance is irrelevant, he said.

“This is not a political issue. They did not ask for permission. We are doing what any college or university would do to enforce its trademarks,” Cassella said.

“Not a political issue,” my ass.

Posted in Politics, Truth and Falsehood
One comment on “West Point Graduates Against the War
  1. Jim Ryan says:

    May 21, 2006
    Our Towns
    And Now, a Word About West Point, or Should That Be West Point®?
    West Point, N.Y.
    IT’S possible that Big Brother is trampling on free speech in the matter of West Point versus West Point Graduates Against the War.
    But it’s most likely that there’s a more familiar threat to health and safety: lawyers running amok, this time citing the honor of the military academy and raising the most persnickety questions of law.
    The immediate issue is West Point’s challenge to a new group called West Point Graduates Against the War. Within a few weeks after it formed a couple of months ago, it received a stern letter from Lori L. Doughty, intellectual property lawyer for the military academy. The letter said that the very words “West Point” were protected by trademark, that they could not be used without permission and that “your immediate cooperation in the removal of the words ‘West Point’ from the name of your organization and Web site is greatly appreciated.”
    There’s some history here. In 2000, the United States Army registered a trademark on the words West Point and has also registered trademarks on other terms for the school, including U.S.M.A. and United States Military Academy. Since then, sometimes to the chagrin of folks in Highland Falls, the village just outside its gates, West Point has taken to heart the importance of protecting its trademark from unauthorized uses.
    No one (yet) has wandered into the Ice Cream Shoppe on Main Street and demanded a share of proceeds from the T-shirt reading “Ice Cream Shoppe — A few licks from West Point,” but Ms. Doughty says the shirt does, in fact, infringe on the West Point trademark.
    Joe D’Onofrio, the mayor, thus far has ignored a letter from the academy saying he needs permission to call his new liquor store West Point Wine & Spirits. Mohamed Sheikh, on the other hand, decided to call his inn the Point to Point Inn, just to be safe.
    “My lawyer said if I used the words West Point they’d come after me, and I’d have to pay a couple of thousand dollars to change the name,” he said. Other existing businesses in town, like the West Point Motel or Vasily’s West Point Clothing and Gifts, had their names grandfathered in.
    All of this, while not perhaps entirely neighborly, is pretty standard in trademark law, in which lawyers say you lose your trademark protection if you don’t enforce it.
    Ms. Doughty acknowledged some limits. The Academy is not trying to enforce licensing rights on the West Point News in northeast Nebraska, the city of West Point, Miss., or the West Point Barber Shop in West Point, Va. They don’t have anything to do with the military academy and represent geographic places, so they are protected uses, she said.
    Which brings us to West Point Graduates Against the War, which was founded by three 1962 West Point graduates, Bill Cross, Jim Ryan and Joe Wojcik. Its Web site, http://www.westpointgradsagainstthewar.org, includes no official-looking West Point emblems like its seal or the black knight.
    Instead, it includes antiwar literature, wisdom from graduates like Robert E. Lee, Douglas MacArthur and Dwight D. Eisenhower and reflections on the West Point Honor Code. “Our Purpose,” the Web site reads: “To help reclaim the honor of the United States of America.”
    John F. Ward, a lawyer for the group, said West Point’s trademark claim was far too broad. He says the academy can’t claim ownership of the words West Point; it can claim a trademark only for things that can be construed as official representations of the Academy or for specific uses, whether for T-shirts or Christmas tree ornaments.
    Mr. Ward said that since no one would expect that the Department of Defense is sponsoring a group calling itself West Point Veterans Against the War, no one could draw an inaccurate inference from the name.
    “Nothing in trademark law prevents an individual from accurately describing his status in society,” he said. “It’s called nominative fair use. What they have to establish is that the use could confuse someone. But you could ask any 12-year-old if an antiwar group is being sponsored by the U.S. Army, and any 12-year-old would tell you no.”
    Ms. Doughty said that blurring and dilution of the trademark were as important as causing confusion and that since the academy can’t be seen as endorsing any political point of view, the trademark issue is a valid one. The two sides are discussing a possible agreement such as keeping the name but including a disclaimer.
    THE lawyers can fight that one out, but at least two things seem clear. First, the dispute is the greatest thing that could have happened to the group. Mr. Cross, a Vietnam combat veteran who spent 10 years in the Army, taught at West Point and now teaches and does counseling near Syracuse, said the group had been flooded by inquiries since the issue arose.
    And while it’s easy to be skeptical of West Point’s claim that its behavior was all about trademarks and not about content, the academy does have a history of bringing dissenting viewpoints to its campus. And lawyers do tend to act like lawyers. Ms. Doughty was asked why she hadn’t moved against another threat to the republic, U.S.M.A. Girlfriends, an online group of girlfriends of West Point graduates and cadets.
    “I hadn’t heard about that one,” she said. “Dot-com or dot-org? I’ll send them a letter next week.”
    E-mail: peappl@nytimes.com


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