Sanders campaign accused of "trademark bullying"

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Reading the complaint, the campaign objects to the use of the logo (i.e., Bernie with the curvy double underline) not the rhetorical imagery of Bernie Sanders with the other gentlemen (Marx et al).

This seems to happen every major election year with copyrighted material.


If you don’t stop infringing… Sanders’ lawyer will BERN YOU.


“It would appear Sanders is turning to intellectual property thuggery”

Really, “thuggery” you say, what is it when another POTUS candidate does it, “trademark retention” I’d guess.


Sanders has a point. For once a Godwin is entirely justified. If Sanders can be put next to Mao and Stalin, why not a T-shirt of Cruz with Hitler, Pinochet, Mussolini and Franco? I suspect that would get shut down very fast indeed, yet Stalin and Mao between them killed more people even than Hitler.


As a Bernie supporter, personally I find these shirts hilarious, and I would purchase one if I didn’t already have too many T-shirts.

Reading the alleged trademark “bullying” letter, though, it looks to me like the campaign doesn’t specifically take issue with the content of the shirt somuch as the fact that it really rips off (not riffs off) the officially trademarked Bernie logos. To me it just looks like someone attempting to properly curate their trademarked IP, which is a required step for someone to keep the IP trademarked to begin with, right?

If the t-shirt creator simply reworks the artwork substantially enough to be considered fair use, there would have never been a complaint to begin with on this matter. The lawyer for McCall tries to turn it into another matter entirely, namely that Bernie is ashamed of allegedly being linked to mass murdering communist leaders. I didn’t get that at all.


I think it’s reasonable to consider the association of Sanders with known historical socialists a likely source of confusion, since every major news outlet and many others besides refer to Sanders as a ‘Democratic Socialist’ when he is in fact a ‘Social Democrat’.

Rosa Luxemburg would be spinning in her grave.


Apparently many right-wingers were having sympathetic bouts of Alzheimer’s during Reagan’s illness so that they failed to observe the collapse of the Worldwide Communist Conspiracy a quarter-century ago.


The T-shirt is awesome. It is also arguably infringing. Sanders calls himself a socialist, so it is not out of the question that someone might think this is serious and not a joke; hence, it would be reasonable for a court to rule that it infringes on the campaign’s trademarks.

The letter from Bernie isn’t at all thuggish. It doesn’t even make any overt threats–it just points out the infringement and encourages the makers of the T-shirt to come up with a different way of making their point. It’s one of the milder lawyer letters I’ve seen on this topic in the past twenty years.

That said, I suspect Sanders never saw the shirt, and would have been amused if he had. The comparison to Stalin and Mao is genuinely uncalled for, as any serious student of history would know, but the design is quite good otherwise.


Not really a student of history here, but even I think the comparison of Sanders to those two psychopathic mass murderers demonstrates the shirt designer to be a dunce. But I guess hyperbole in politics is expected. Net effect = zero.


I agree with your post except that I think anybody with a reading age over 12 ought to know who Stalin and Mao were and what they did. Those who do not know history are condemned to repeat it, and there are too many of them about at the moment.

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I thought this was the joke, right? GRR COMMUNISTS! BERNIE DEATHCAMPS 2016 VOTE TRUMP OR DIE

Clearly this is not what is/will actually happen, but the fear-mongering is real, so why not go with it?

Don’t bring your facts around here. That kind of stuff will get you put on a list, here at Boing Boing.


In his letter, Levy wrote to Hawkins: “It is your contention, apparently, that an ordinary and reasonably prudent consumer would tend to be confused about whether it is the Sanders campaign that is promoting Sanders’ candidacy by associated him with the 19th Century theoreticians of the communist movement as well as with three ruthless Communist Party dictators.”

Well, what’s your definition of “ordinary”? There are millions of Americans who already think that Sanders and all his supporters are disciples of Stalin and Mao.

I’m not saying that the Sanders campaign is making the right decision here, but it’s hardly a stretch to think that some people would be confused.


Stalin and Mao individually each killed more people than Hitler.


In some countries, but this is the United States election. We don’t care what Europeans like Stalin and Mao did 1000 years ago.

(Seriously, as the shirt creators have included official campaign graphics in order to make the shirt look like an official campaign shirt, they can’t then consistently argue that nobody would believe that the shirt was official.)


Well, I never thought I was disagreeing with the post as much as I was pointing out that ™/© comes into play on these campaigns like clockwork–if my clock kept time in months rather than minutes (™ :wink:). The only candidate who I wouldn’t want to mess with is Trump because that guy loves his lawyers! (I mean, he gives them billable hours all the time!)

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Nope. Same thing. Parody and criticism is fair use of a trademark or copyright.

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Meanwhile, the Clinton campaign dreams of such interest.


Ha ha ha! Our campaign worked brilliantly!

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