Over the last year, journalists have written about the Republican party’s “identity crisis”—should Republicans walk away from Donald Trump? Well, it looks like a California non-profit is using IP law to make clear that a former Republican president is unaffiliated with Trump.
On June 30, 2021, The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute (the “Reagan Foundation”) filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Central District of California against Political Media, Inc. and Constitutional Rights PAC (“CRPAC”) for trademark and tradename infringement, unfair competition, cyberpiracy, and right of publicity under federal and California state law. Political Media is a political consulting company, and CRPAC is “a hybrid/super political action committee,” according to the complaint.
The complaint alleges that the late President Ronald Reagan founded the Reagan Foundation in part because he was “aware that commercial enterprises and politically motivated persons and entities would attempt to appropriate his name to sell products or imply endorsements.” As such, the Reagan Foundation claims that it owns “multiple trademark registrations” for the mark RONALD REAGAN in various stylizations and forms, and owns the mark RONALD REAGAN stylized in the form of President Reagan’s signature.
The Complaint alleges that the defendants circulated via email a newsletter with an image of President Reagan and President Trump asking consumers to “Join the Trump Reagan Club” with a monthly donation:
Allegedly, if you clicked on the above image in the newsletter, it would direct you to a website, www.trumpreagan.us, or the Trump Reagan Website, as the complaint calls it. The Reagan Foundation claims that defendants used “President Reagan’s name and image to advertise, market, and sell @trumpreagan email addresses and to solicit donations” and used “the domain names TRUMPREAGAN.US, TRUMPREAGAN.COM and REAGANTRUMP.COM to direct to Defendants’ website hosted at www.trumpreagan.us.” Plaintiffs further allege that the Trump Reagan Website “featured prominently” a graphic stating “WE ARE TRUMP REAGAN”:
According to the Reagan Foundation, “Defendants’ use of President Reagan’s name and image in connection with the Trump Reagan Website and Defendants’ business activities and sale of email addresses is knowing and clearly intended to foster an association with President Reagan and to create the impression on the part of potential customers that Defendants’ products and services are endorsed by the Reagan Foundation as the owner of President Reagan’s name and image.”
The Reagan Foundation alleges that the defendants’ use of its marks, and President Reagan’s name and likeness constitute trademark and tradename infringement, cyberpiracy, unfair competition, and violation of the right of publicity. As such, the Foundation has requested that the court preliminarily and permanently enjoin the defendants from engaging in infringing use of its marks, among other things.
On July 7, 2021, the court granted in part the Reagan Foundation’s request for a temporary restraining order and set a hearing on the Foundation's preliminary injunction for July 23, 2021.
Will other entities or politicians file similar lawsuits? Possibly, but as this case demonstrates, IP law can be used to clear up political affiliations.
The case is The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute v. Political Media, Inc. et al, No. 2:21-cv-05327.