A U.S. appeals court ruled Tuesday that there are limits on the messages that organizations seeking trademarks can embrace, upholding a finding that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office was right to decline a trademark to a group opposed to Islamic extremism.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit agreed with the trademark office’s earlier decision that the “Stop! Islamization of America!” website owned by conservative commentator and activist Pamela Geller could be denied trademark over some of the essays and content it hosted, according to Reuters.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the website’s name, according to the three-judge panel, “suggests an association between ‘peaceful political Islamization’ and terrorism that many Muslims would find offensive.”
Geller decried the court’s decision in an email to TheBlaze Wednesday, asking: “What exactly is peaceful political Islamization, and where has that been a good thing?”
The court took into consideration articles on Geller’s website that opposed the building of mosques and also cited a billboard campaign that offered resources to Muslims who wanted to exit the faith, according to the Journal.
Geller told TheBlaze back in 2011 that she created an ad for display in Detroit, which read, “Don’t believe in Muhammad? You are not alone,” to test the bounds of free speech. It was a spoof of a nearly identical atheist sign asking people whether they believed in a higher power.
“Appellants [the website owners] contend the essays posted on their website do not advocate suppression of the Islamic faith, but only oppose political Islamization,” the court said in its ruling. “The [trademark] board disagreed, as do we.”
Court documents show that Geller and Robert Spencer, another well-known conservative activist, first filed an intent-to-use application in February 2010 in an effort to register the website under the premise of “[p]roviding information regarding understanding and preventing terrorism.”
“There is only one Stop! Islamization of America!, but we were concerned that others would use the phrase and wanted to make sure that it would be identified with our initiatives only,” Geller told TheBlaze of their decision to seek trademark. “We wanted to trademark it and use it as we do now — to brand our educational efforts.”
Geller’s request was denied on Jan. 19, 2011, leading her to file an appeal with the trademark office. According to court documents, the request was also declined “on the ground that the mark may be disparaging to American Muslims pursuant to §2(a) of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1052(a) (2006).”
The code says that a trademark will be reject if it, “Consists of or comprises immoral, deceptive, or scandalous matter; or matter which may disparage or falsely suggest a connection with persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols, or bring them into contempt, or disrepute…”
Geller called the decision “a devastating blow to our first amendment rights,” adding that Stop! Islamization of America! is part of her American Freedom Defense Initiative, an organization that wages campaigns to “increase awareness of Islamization and jihad terror.”
Her group has become known for its controversial billboard campaigns in cities across the nation, as TheBlaze has highlighted in the past.
“This is clear evidence of how the federal government, and especially the courts, continue to bend over backwards to kowtow and placate Muslim sensitivities (in accordance with the blasphemy laws under the sharia),” she said, referring to Islamic Shariah law. “They are afraid of the response. Not from me, of course. The [Trademark Trial and Appeal Board] is not protecting Muslims from our ‘Islamophobia’ and/or ‘bigotry’ … No, they are afraid of the response from Islamic supremacists, and that is the problem.”
Geller said she is prepared to “fight on” with challenges to the ruling.