Jihad Watch and Atlas Shrugs — two websites run by friends of mine who have very clearly articulated views about Islamic radicalism, and controversial ones about what to do about it — are busy, and then some, with this story:
A federal agency has rejected a request for a trademark by the organization “Stop Islamization of America” because its name may “disparage” Muslims.
The group launched by Atlas Shrugs blogger Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch has drawn national attention for its bus-sign campaign offering support for Muslims who want to leave Islam. SIOA currently is organizing opposition to plans for an Islamic mosque at Ground Zero in New York City.
Now the group reports the U.S. government has refused its request for a trademark designation for its name.
The government response, posted on the site, states, “The applied-for mark refers to Muslims in a disparaging manner because by definition it implies that conversion or conformity to Islam is something that needs to be stopped or caused to cease.
“The proposed mark further disparages Muslims because, taking into account the nature of the services (‘providing information regarding understanding and preventing terrorism’), it implies that Islam is associated with violence and threats,” the government agency said.
Forget the politics of this. Besides the fact that I have no idea why these two thought a word trademark (as opposed to protection for the logo) was needed here — being dubious, as I am in general, to the extension of trademark protection to words people say to mean things in English — I’m not too surprised about the outcome of their application on the “scandalous or offensive” denial.
This is because, as I’ve written before (and of course I’m in good company), while the PTO’s criteria for “scandalous and offensive” denials under Section 2(a) of the Trademark Act are a conceptual and a practical mess, the outcome’s certainly predictable when it comes to racial, ethnic or other “protected class” categories: Only the politically correct need apply.
That’s a “criterion” Pam and Bob are not going to meet!
Predictable or not, though, that “standard” doesn’t have much to recommend it as either law or policy. But I can’t blame these two bloggers for not knowing this when they dove head-in to their trademark registration application the way they do with everything else in life: With passion and abandon. They know more than I’ll ever forget (maybe more than I want to remember; certainly more than others want to even think) about radical Islam.
But what could they do if they just didn’t know a decent radical trademark lawyer?