Obama Campaign Refiles Lawsuit Against Washington Promotions & Printing
President Barack Obama's re-election campaign has renewed efforts to stop a promotional products website from illegally using the campaign's logos. Obama for America (OFA) filed a lawsuit in Washington federal court on June 1 alleging that the website Demstore.com is selling items featuring the "Rising Sun" logo, which is a trademark owned by the campaign.
Lawyers for OFA claim that the website, run by distributor Washington Promotions & Printing, has been selling items with the "Rising Sun" logo since 2007 and the "2012 Rising Sun" logo since 2011. The original suit was filed in October 2011 in Illinois, and was dismissed without prejudice for a lack of jurisdiction in January, allowing the plaintiff to refile in another district.
The most recent lawsuit is nearly identical to the one filed in October, with OFA's lawyers asserting that the president's re-election campaign is being harmed by the infringement. Purchases on www.barackobama.com go toward the campaign as contributions, and the suit is asking the court to award damages in addition to stopping usage of the Rising Sun imagery.
"A trademark owner can collect the infringer's profits, any actual damages the owner sustains (such as lost profits where potential customers have been diverted to the infringer's items in lieu of the trademark owner's product) and costs of the action, including attorney fees," said Lisa Lori, Esq., a partner in the litigation department at law firm Klehr, Harrison, Harvey & Branzburg LLP and expert in trademark law. "Alternately, the trademark owner may elect to recover statutory damages of up to $1,000,000 per trademark in the case of counterfeiting."
Steve Schwat, owner of Washington Promotions & Printing Inc., told the Washington Post that he was disappointed with the latest move, saying, "We have always cooperatively worked with Democratic campaigns." The company has been selling political promotional products since 1985 and Schwat said he has not had similar issues with other campaigns.
The new lawsuit comes as the nation heads into the last five months of the 2012 election season. Promotional products have long been a part of presidential campaigns, and both Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney are using campaign merchandise to generate funding. For this reason, the prices for the products are usually inflated: as the Washington Post noted, a T-shirt from Obama for America costs $30, whereas a similar shirt from Demstore.com can cost as little as $4.89 each when purchased in bulk.
Stay tuned to PromoMarketing.com in the future for more as the story develops.