Last week, President Obama's campaign committee filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against a company for allegedly using the campaign’s trademarked “Rising Sun” logo without permission. According to the complaint, the company is “using the Rising Sun Trademarks on merchandise in a deliberate and willful attempt to draw on the goodwill and commercial magnetism of the Rising Sun Trademarks and the Obama Campaigns.” Although the campaign sent several cease-and-desist letters to the company, the company did not stop using the logo. The company’s CEO stated in an interview that he didn’t understand why the campaign was attempting to enforce its trademark against his company when “there are hundreds, if not thousands, of companies selling material with the Obama sunrise on it” without official permission.
This suit holds at least two important lessons. First, it’s usually a bad idea to use another entity’s logo without permission. If you do, you could find yourself on the wrong end of an infringement suit. Second, one of the most frequent comments lawyers hear when they advise their clients against doing something is that other people are doing the same thing. This demonstrates that just because other people are doing something, doesn’t mean that it’s OK or that you won’t get in trouble.