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May 21, 2015

Court Says Group's Use of NAACP Doesn't Violate Trademark

A federal appeals court has ruled that a Virginia anti-abortion organization did not infringe on the NAACP's trademark by using an altered version of the venerable civil-rights group's name in online posts criticizing it, reports The Washington Post. The NAACP sued the Radiance Foundation over the latter's use of the headline "NAACP: National Association for the Abortion of Colored People" for articles on its Web site.

Reversing a lower-court decision, the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit said the statute cited by the NAACP in its claim is designed to protect "against consumer confusion about the source or sponsorship of goods or services" and should not be applied to Radiance's "expressive right to comment on social issues under the First Amendment." Trademark law is not an appropriate vehicle "for combating speech with which one does not agree," the court held.