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MasterCard International Inc. is forging ahead to stop Ralph Nader’s campaign from using a parody of MasterCard’s “Priceless” TV ads, despite losing the first round of copyright litigation. U.S. District Judge George Daniels in New York rebuffed MasterCard’s bid for a temporary restraining order barring Nader from using the ad. The parody highlights the influence of money on the political process and pushes for Nader’s inclusion in this year’s presidential debates. Instead of appealing Daniels’ Sept. 12 ruling, MasterCard will seek an expedited hearing on its preliminary- injunction motion to get the ad off the air, said Colm J. Dobbyn, MasterCard’s vice president and senior counsel. MasterCard v. Nader 2000 Primary Committee, No. 00-CV-6068. The company is seeking an Oct. 4 hearing, and MasterCard will “vigorously enforce our rights to our intellectual property in this award-winning advertising campaign,” Dobbin said. AIMED AT THE HEART MasterCard’s commercials focus on heart-warming moments, such as a child’s first trip to a baseball game. After listing the price of tickets, hot dogs and souvenirs, the spot notes that the costs pale in comparison to the “priceless” value of the experience. The Nader ad follows a nearly identical script: “Grilled tenderloin for fund-raiser: $1,000 a plate; campaign ads filled with half-truths: $10 million; promises to special interest groups: over $10 billion. Finding out the truth: priceless.” The ad is protected because it is political speech and doesn’t seek to sell a product, said Mark A. Lemley, a professor at the University of California’s Boalt Hall, who specializes in copyright law. He is representing Nader against MasterCard. Lemley said that “if Visa had run this ad, they’d be in trouble” and MasterCard would have legitimate grounds to claim that consumers could be confused by the parody. MasterCard is not being unduly sensitive to Nader’s spoof, insisted Dobbyn, noting that his company has sued such companies as Time-Warner Inc.’s HBO Network over other alleged infringements. A simple cease-and-desist letter normally does the trick, he said.

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