January 23, 2003 | FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Iowa Professor Owns Phrase Freedom of Expression, Threatens Suit
Against AT&T for Violating His Trademark.
New York Times columnist Nat Ives writes, "Freedom of Expression, it
turns out, may not be for everyone."
At a January 25, 2003 press conference in Chicago, IL, University of
Iowa professor Kembrew McLeod will formally announce his plans to
pursue legal action against AT&T for trademark infringement. The
telecommunications giant used "Freedom of Expression" as the slogan
for a recent print ad campaign, which violates Dr. McLeod's federally
registered trademark, Freedom of Expression, which is also the name
of his long-running publication.
"Yesterday, Mr. McLeod sent AT&T a 'cease and desist' letter,
asserting that consumers might infer a link between the company and
his anti-corporate publication, 'Freedom of Expression,'" wrote Ives
in a January 23, 2003 New York Times column. McLeod objects to the
fact that AT&T, in reality, cares little for freedom of expression;
he is also concerned with the way intellectual property law is
accelerating the privatization of our culture.
"Your company has usurped my client's registered trademark in its
attempts to sell long-distance telephone service to college
students," McLeod's Iowa City-based attorney Gregory Williams wrote
in the cease and desist letter mailed to AT&T on January 22, 2003.
"Consequently, we demand that you immediately cease and desist from
further use of the registered mark 'Freedom of Expression.'"
"I want AT&T to think twice the next time they try to use 'Freedom of
Expression' without my permission," states McLeod. He acknowledges
the irony of trademarking the very phrase that sums up the American
commitment to free speech. "But 99.999% of the time it is
corporations that shut down individuals' Freedom of Expression," he
said, "so it's satisfying that trademark law allows me to do the same
to AT&T." McLeod is an assistant professor at the University of Iowa
who has written about the impact of intellectual property law and the
privatization of culture in his book Owning Culture (2001).
This is not the first time a commonly used phrase has been
trademarked. Food manufacturing company Mrs. Smith's fires off cease
and desist letters to bakeries that dare to infringe on its
trademark, "home style." University of Massachusetts ex-basketball
coach John Calipari trademarked "Refuse to Lose" and charges the
school royalties to use his slogan. And Ohio University and Ohio
State engaged in a lengthy, expensive battle over the word "Ohio."
The Trademark for Freedom of Expression (no. 2,127,381) was filed
under Class 16 of the international register of services and goods,
which covers printed matter, and the like.
The press conference is part of the Chicago opening of "Illegal Art:
Freedom of Expression in the Corporate Age," an art show that runs
from January 25 through February 21. "Illegal Art"
(http://illegal-art.org) debuted in New York City, and it will also
travel to San Francisco. The show is sponsored by Stay Free! magazine
and the Chicago exhibit is hosted by In These Times magazine.
McLeod's framed Freedom of Expression trademark certificate is part
of the show, which highlights art and ideas on the legal fringes of
intellectual property law. Works include the cover art of
Negativland's infamous "U2" sound collage, which prompted a lawsuit
by the Irish band's record company, as well as director Todd Haynes'
"Superstar," a short film that sympathetically tells the story of
Karen Carpenter with Barbie dolls, but which was enjoined from
Media representatives and others are invited to the press conference
at 5pm on January 25, 2003. It is located at 2040 N. Milwaukee
Avenue, Chicago, IL, 60647, at the In These Times magazine building.
The show opens at the same location at 6pm.
High Resolution Images Available for Media at http://kembrew.com.
-- (( ( (( ( (( ( (((Kembrew 11 McLeod))) ) )) ) )) ) )) http://kembrew.com
Assistant Professor Dept. of Communication Studies University of Iowa
1218 College St. Iowa City, IA 52245 (319) 341-3583
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