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The Republican Party of Texas (RPT) recently threatened legal action against the Republican-Enron parody Web site EnronownstheGOP.com. Despite the assertion of trademark misappropriation, the Web site is still up and running. Indeed, there are indications that the RPT is backing away from its legal threat. This time, the RPT probably picked the wrong fight. THE WEB SITE EnronownstheGOP.com is a parody Web site, patterned after TexasGOP.org, which lampoons various Texas Republican incumbent candidates who apparently have refused to return campaign contributions from Enron employees. The Web site contains a banner which reads “Republican Party of Texas … brought to you by Enron.” The letter “e” in the word “Republican” is in the form of the crooked “e” symbol for Enron. The Web site contains “humorous takes on the GOP’s ties to Enron.” The Web site states that it was created by an organization called “Texas ’02″ which “is directed and funded by Texas Democrats who believe this year’s statewide elections represent the best chance in decades for Texans to take charge of the future.” The Web site states that the goal of Texas ’02 is “to elect Democratic candidates to statewide offices.” LEGAL DEMAND On Feb. 12, counsel for the RPT sent a letter to the owner of the Web site demanding that Texas ’02 and related parties “immediately cease and desist using this website.” Counsel threatened imminent legal action if the demand was not abided by right away. In the demand letter, counsel for the RPT stated that “the RPT has created a website located on the internet at ‘TexasGOP.org’ which is the official website of the RPT.” Counsel noted that “the RPT has created and utilized a symbol of an elephant with a map of the State of Texas in the center as a recognized and trademark protected symbol of the RPT.” Counsel added that “this trademark protected symbol is used throughout the RPT’s website” and “in a variety of communication with the public.” Counsel went on to explain that Texas ’02 has “created a website using the name ‘EnronownstheGOP’ and this website has misappropriated the trademark protected symbol of the RPT and deliberately imitated the RPT’s website.” Counsel stated that Texas ’02 has “utilized a confusingly similar mark of an elephant in the same design as the RPT’s trademark protected symbol” and has “replaced the map of the State of Texas with an Enron logo.” Thus, according to counsel, the Web site “is clearly intended to imitate and mimic the RPT trademark symbol and website, and to create confusion and mislead the public.” As a result, as stated by counsel, “the public is likely to be deceived into believing that your website, including your misappropriation of the RPT’s trademark protected symbol, is sponsored by or affiliated with the RPT.” REPUBLICAN PARTY APPARENTLY BACKING OFF Texas ’02 has not caved in the face of the demand by the RPT. Moreover, so far, it appears that the RPT has not made good on its threat to initiate a lawsuit. The Web site continues to run and it even pokes fun at the RPT by making statements such as “while rushing to use the legal system against their opponents, they have not disputed the essential fact featured on the website: that Enron owns the GOP.” The Web site also proclaims that the RPT “backed down [from filing a lawsuit], opting instead to file a bogus complaint with the state ethics commission, based again on their misreading of the law.” The Web site then asks, “what’s next? A moving violation ticket for the increased traffic on our site?” LESSONS LEARNED The RPT probably should have picked another battle. It is hard to imagine the public being confused into believing that the Web site is sponsored by or affiliated with the RPT, especially when it lampoons Republican candidates, in parody fashion states that the Republican Party of Texas is “brought to you by Enron,” and plainly states that it was created by Texas ’02, an organization directed and funded by Texas Democrats with the purpose of electing Democratic candidates. If anything, the legal demand by the RPT and the attention generated by the demand has only served to give greater notoriety to the very Web site that the RPT disdains. Eric J. Sinrod is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris, where he focuses on technology and litigation matters. His Web site is sinrodlaw.com and his firm’s site is Duane Morris.Mr. Sinrod may be reached by e-mail at [email protected]

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