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Organizing for Action Files To Trademark Its Name, Tries To Reclaim Its Domains

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Wednesday, February 13 2013

Art: Courtesy IvanPw/Flickr

Someone, presumably Jon Carson over at Organizing for Action, has filed a complaint with the National Arbitration Forum to reclaim the Web addresses organizingforaction.com, organizingforaction.net and organizingforaction.org.

Whoever's in charge of President Obama's Super PAC presence online forgot to register the domain names before news of the organization's launch became public January 18, and a couple of individuals, one of them conservative, registered the domains. Derek Bovard, the Castle Rock, Colorado computer technician who registered organizingforaction.net, said at the time that he'd be willing to sell the Web address back to the Super PAC for $10,000.

In the meantime, he's pointed the domain to the National Rifle Association, a group that OfA is lobbying against directly when it comes to gun control policy. A fellow conservative, Aaron Strong, in Southern California, filed a trademark application on "Organizing for Action," two weeks ago.

"The Web site is for information on conservative information and values, and we plan to voice our political views and opinions on it, which is our First Amendment right," Strong tells techPresident. Strong said he's partnering with Bovard.

In an e-mail message, Bovard writes: "We intend to win the complaint and then do something constructive with the site to promote Conservative Constitutional values and exercise our First Amendment Freedom of Speech Rights in political opposition to any people or groups who speak against and/or take away the freedoms we believe in and that have been granted to us by our countries [sic] founders. Our intention is to help protect the Bill of Rights, the Constitution and Conservative values with the use of this site."

Meanwhile, an attorney from the law firm of Perkins Coie filed a trademark application for the name on February 7th. This application would cover DVDs with policy information, and other usual political event paraphernalia, such as bumper, rally, and lapel stickers, printed paper yard signs, placards and banners. The trademark application suggests that the organization plans on using mugs, tank tops, jackets, sweaters, hats, onesies and t-shirts as well to fundraise, as those items are also listed in the application, and the stated purpose is to promote "public awareness of policy issues; providing online information regarding policy issues."

A third applicant from Texas has also thrown their hat in the ring too, applying in January for a trademark on a particular t-shirt design with the words "Organizing for Action."

Meanwhile, the arbitration process over the domains has begun. Strong said on the phone that OfA had never asked for the Web names back in person.

The whole process of who ends up with the domain names could drag on for months, although the chances of Bovard and Strong ending up with the trademark seem to be pretty slim. An element of determining who gets to keep using a trademark is the likelihood of confusion. If Bovard and Strong were using the mark and the domain name to engage in activities that were completely different from Obama's organization, like selling home organization services, they might have had a better chance of holding onto the name. But as they say in e-mail discussions, IANAL, and it'll be up to the parties and the US Patent and Trademark Office to decide.

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