As our good friend Jackson West notes, pro- Prop 8 group Protect Marriage has issued a cease and desist letter to the anti-Prop. 8 group, Courage Campaign.

The bone of contention: Courage Campaign’s Prop 8 Trial Tracker logo, which satirizes Protect Marriage’s logo in a gayish kind of way.


In a cease and desist letter sent to Courage Campaign, Browse McDowell’s John M. Skeriotis (this is a big PDF but TOTALLY WORTH IT!), a lawyer for Protect Marriage, claims that the parody logo constitutes trademark and copyright infringement, and is a “counterfeit” mark of Protect Marriage’s logo.

At publication time, the Courage Campaign has refused to back down and change the logo.

Is this a wise move? We checked in with a local lawyer specializing in IP and Trademark issues to see if they thought the suit had any merit. Since the lawyer in question has a day job at a big company, they asked not to be named, and we’re respecting that, but we promise you, they’re To Be Listened To. The lawyer’s response, below:

My overall take on it is that the pro Prop 8 people are stupid and I don’t think they would ultimately win on this argument, but they have a better argument than I would have otherwise given them credit for.

(Protect Marriage does) have a point that it’s a pretty subtle parody — I actually didn’t notice that the trial tracker logo is two women as opposed to a heterosexual couple, so I could theoretically see how people might be confused at first glance.

BUT the anti Prop 8 people (Courage Campaign) have a good point that it’s a parody with some First Amendment protection and I’m hard-pressed to believe that anyone is actually “confused” by this to the point where you’d have enough grounds to sue — you can’t sue for trademark infringement unless people in the real world are confused about which site is which site, and I don’t imagine people going to prop8trialtracker and being like, wait a frickin’ minute, based on that logo, I thought for sure this was going to be an anti gay marriage site!

But on the third hand, the pro Prop 8 people are insane and I wouldn’t put it past them to sue the Courage Campaign just for attention. But on the fourth hand, I don’t think prop8trialtracker should cave on this one either.

I guess if I (was a lawyer who) had to work out a compromise, I’d say “we don’t think anyone is confused by this, but as a courtesy to you, we’ll change the color of the logo from blue to red” or something minor like that.

the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at

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