By Julian Hattem - 06/09/14 03:21 PM EDT
A pro-Hillary Clinton super-PAC is facing a legal fight after trying to prevent shirts, mugs and bumper stickers that play on the group’s name.
Instead of “I’m Ready for Hillary,” a Minnesota activist made a line of shirts declaring “I’m Ready for Oligarchy,” in the same style and with the same font as the super-PAC’s images.
The consumer interest group Public Citizen is coming to the design creator’s defense, and accusing the super-PAC of trying to clamp down on his constitutional right to political protest.
In a letter to the group on Monday, attorney Paul Levy wrote that “critical speech directed at a candidate for president is squarely protected by the First Amendment, hence any application of trademark law to quash such uses is highly suspect.”
The Minnesota designer, Dan McCall, sells a slew of libertarian and other political merchandise through his website.
He previously was locked in a fight with the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security for selling shirts and mugs that used the agencies seals and said things such as “Department of Homeland Stupidity.”
Public Citizen fought back against both agencies and eventually got them to drop their complaints and pay McCall’s legal fees.
In that case, as with the Ready for Hillary merchandise, Public Citizen claimed that McCall is well within his constitutional right to mock the groups, especially since the novelty items are not likely to be confused with those of the official organizations.
“Nobody could possibly look at McCall’s design and think that it is sponsored by your committee or, indeed, by its candidate, so there is no actionable likelihood of confusion,” Levy wrote in his letter to Ready for Hillary.
He gave the group three days to take back its demand that the websites stop selling the merchandise, threatening otherwise to sue for lost sales and attorneys’ fees.