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July 16, 2006

Death of the First Amendment

No seriously, read this federal court decision in a trademark case where trends in intellectual property are leading to complete elimination of free speech rights.

This is not a case about commercial use of a trademark for rival goods. This is a trademark case where even talking about whether the trademark should be recognized by the government is prohibited by the court. So this is about class political speech being silenced by the court:

The background for the case is at the Volokh Conspiracy but here is a summary:

The case starts with the "Freecycle" movement, where people are encouraged to recycle, reuse and regift goods, a now worldwide movement that started with a non-profit group called Freecycle in Arizona.

A former volunteer with Freecycle concluded that the organization's attempts to control use of the term was bad for the movement, so he started sending messages to other activists that he "encouraged people to use term freecycle as a generic term which would block The Freecycle Network (TFN), and all others, from holding a trademark on the term" and "The best way to keep freecycle in the public domain is for as many people and groups as possible to continue to use the term generically."

And a court has now ordered the defendant to stop making such statements to other activists-- essentially using court power to silence even advocacy of defying trademarks.

Hopefully, the Freecycle organization loses on appeal.

Posted by Nathan at July 16, 2006 08:03 AM