Citizens for Community Values is a hyper-right wing group of busybodies who are essentially the seeds of an American style Taliban who operate out of Cincinnati. The First Amendment be damned, they tirelessly work to try to decide what kind of entertainment that you and I can enjoy, or not enjoy. CCV’s lack of respect for the First Amendment reached new heights recently as it tried to shut down a competing political action committee by mis-using trademark law. The Northern District of Ohio gave them a setback in a recent decision.
Over the past few months, “Citizens for Community Values” pushed the Ohio legislature to ignore the First Amendment and impose “strict statewide regulations on the hours of operation and other conditions under which adult entertainment businesses operate in Ohio.”
Governor Ted Strickland decided to show no courage and let the bill become law without his signature. A group of activists seeking to protect First Amendment rights in Ohio formed the Citizens for Community Standards and sought to overturn the law by placing the issue on the ballot for the November 6 election.
On July 3, 2007, counsel for CCV sent a letter to CCS demanding that CCS cease and desist in using the name “ Citizens for Community Standards.” In the letter, CCV’s counsel claimed that CCV owned the word mark for “ Citizens for Community Values,” as well as the trade name “ Citizens for Community Values.” Accordingly, counsel continued, CCS is infringing on CCV’s trade name and trademark rights through its use of the name “ Citizens for Community Standards.”
CCS, through counsel, responded via letter dated July 19, 2007, and claimed that CCV’s trademark of “ common everyday words” is invalid, that CCS is not infringing on any trademark, and that CCS has a First Amendment right to use the name “ Citizens for Community Standards.” Accordingly, CCS refused to accede to CCV’s demands.
Instead of waiting for CCV to strike, CCS filed a Declaratory Action against CCS seeking a court ruling that “CCS’s use of the name “ Citizens for Community Standards” does not infringe CCS’s mark or its trade name, is fair use, and is protected by the First Amendment.”
CCV filed a counterclaim and sought a preliminary injunction to force CCS to, inter alia stop using the CCS name, the http://www.citizensforcommunitystandards.org URL.
The court found that CCV was not likely to suffer any irreparable harm, and also recognized CCS’ First Amendment rights could be damaged by the issuance of the injunctive relief.
The fact that the TRO requested by CCV might constitute a prior restraint on CCS’s First Amendment rights dictates that the Court demand that CCV unequivocally demonstrate that it will suffer irreparable injury in the absence of a TRO.
The court seemed to demonstrate a bit of impatience with CCV.
As the Court explained to the parties during the August 15, 2007 teleconference, the CCS internet website could in no way be confused with CCV’s website, despite CCV’s request for injunctive relief prohibiting the use of http://www.citizensforcommunitystandards.org. A single glance at the two websites readily informs the viewer of the differences between the two organizations. Furthermore, the URL for CCV’s homepage is http://www.ccv.org, not something closer to CCS’s URL. Importantly, http://www.citizensforcommunityvalues.org does not appear to be a valid URL or domain name, giving lie to CCV’s claims that people may confuse the website address for CCV with the website address for CCS; the respective valid URLs are, if nothing else, markedly different visually. Likewise, the domain names associated with emails from the respective parties will be dissimilar as well, based on their respective website addresses.
And, in a bit of judicial wisdom, the Court also invoked the “don’t you have better things to do?” rule.
Moreover, as the Court explained to the participants in both teleconferences, continued, expensive litigation over the names used by the competing organizations is wasteful and distracting; the parties should be focusing their respective attention (and monetary resources) on preparing for the possible ballot referendum campaign.
With that, the court ordered a settlement conference for Wednesday, August 29. However, at the time of this posting, I do not have information about what happened at that conference (or if it even happened).
Full order available here (and this is the source for all the quotes above)