A super-PAC that endorses the presidential aspirations of Hillary Clinton is taking on a legal battle in order to prevent a Minnesota man from selling T-shirts, bumper stickers and coffee mugs it finds objectionable. The merchandise the PAC dislikes include shirts that declare "I'm Ready for Oligarchy" instead of 'I'm Ready for Hillary." Designed by Dan McCall of Minnesota, the shirts use the same style and font as the pro-Hillary super-PAC's imagery. McCall sells a variety of merchandise with libertarian themes.
The Ready for Hillary super-PAC has ordered Zazzle.com and CafePress.com to desist from selling the "I'm Ready for Oligarchy" shirts.
However, Public Citizen - a consumer interest group - has come to the defense of the Minnesotan and has accused the Hillary super-PAC of infringing upon his constitutionally guarantee right to political speech. A June 10 search made by Spero for 'I'm Ready for Oligarchy' merchandise at the Zazzle.com website revealed a message from the website: 'Your search "i'm ready for oligarchy hillary parody" did not match any products. Here are some products you might like or be the first to Create Your Own!'
Attorney Paul Levy wrote in a letter addressed to the pro-Hillary PAC on June 8 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.”
Designer McCall has had past run-ins in which political speech became an issue. He has sold shirts and mugs featured the logos and seals of federal government agencies such as the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security but changed wording to read 'Department of Homeland Stupidity.' Public Citizen defended McCall and managed to oblige the agencies to drop their complaints, while also recouping McCall's legal expenses. As with McCall's debate with the federal government, Public Citizen is arguing that he is within his rights to mock ReadyForHillary.com since his novelty items are not likely to be confuse with the PAC.
Attorney Levy wrote in his letter to ReadyforHillary “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 has given the PAC just three days to rescind its demand that the websites cease selling McCall's merchandise and threatened to sue for lost sales and legal fees.
The pro-Hillary website is offering items for sale that include: pet collars, water bottles, and shopping bags.
Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.