Wal-Mart Loses Online Trademark Case
A Conyers, Georgia man has won a legal battle with retail giant Wal-Mart who accused the man of violating its trademark for selling T-shirts and other items that featured the phrases "Wal-ocaust" and "Wal-Qaeda."
U.S. District Judge Timothy Batten in Atlanta ruled that Charles Smith may continue to run his Web sites, www.walocasut.com and www.walqaeda.com. Smith also can continue to sell his parody merchandise that criticizes Wal-Mart the judge said.
"This is a resounding victory for First Amendment rights and sends a clear message to big corporations that would try to use their deep pockets to intimidate and silence their critics," said one of Smith’s attorneys, Paul Alan Levy of Public Citizen.
Sharon Weber, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman, said the company is going over the decision and considering a possible appeal. "We feel we have a duty to defend our trademarks and other intellectual property," Weber said.
In his ruling, Batten pointed out that Smith has a disclaimer on his "Walocaust" Web site that states it has no affiliation with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. The disclaimer also has a link to the real Wal-Mart site for people who want to visit it.
The judge ruled that it was not likely that people would confuse Wal-Mart’s trademarks with Smith’s parodies-"particularly one that calls to mind the genocide of millions of people, and another that evokes the name of a notorious terrorist organization."