Federal Circuit Court of Appeals Upholds Denial of “Stop the Islamisation of America” Trademark

Washington, D.C. (May 14, 2014) — Yesterday, in an opinion that relied upon irrelevant essays and anonymous comments posted on blogs, a three-judge panel in the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld the Trademark Trial & Appeal Board’s (TTAB) denial of the trademark application for “Stop the Islamisation of America” or “SIOA.”  In its ruling, the court agreed with the TTAB and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) that the trademark disparaged Muslims and linked them to terrorism.

In February 2010, Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, executive directors of the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), an advocacy organization that raises awareness about the terror threat posed by sharia-adherent Islamists, applied to the USPTO to register the trademark “Stop the Islamisation of America” to foster and provide an understanding of how to prevent sharia-based tyranny and Islamist terrorism.

The USPTO rejected AFDI’s application in an “Office Action” based on the following analysis: (1) “Islamisation” means converting to Islam or “to make Islamic;” and (2), “Stop” would be understood to mean that “action must be taken to cease, or put an end to, converting or making people in America conform to Islam.”  Thus, the trademark, according to the “Office Action” ruling, disparaged Muslims and linked them to terrorism.

The American Freedom Law Center (AFLC), which is representing the trademark applicants, argued that the term “Islamisation” is not broadly defined as a conversion of an individual; or even a whole society to the religion of Islam; or to the state of being more culturally Islamic.  Rather, AFLC argued, “Islamisation” is the process of implementing sharia into a society in order to convert that society to a sharia-compliant Islamic state.

To support its argument, AFLC introduced Congressional testimony, course materials, academic articles, and a doctoral dissertation demonstrating that Muslims and non-Muslims alike used “Islamisation” and understood it to be the political movement to implement Islamic law or sharia as the law of the land.

Nevertheless, while stating that there is “peaceful political Islamisation,” the court agreed with the TTAB’s conclusion that such evidence was “less widely available” and “not necessarily reflective of the general public’s understanding” of Islamisation.  The general public’s understanding, the court decided, was that “Islamisation” means to “convert to Islam.”

David Yerushalmi, AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel, commented:

“In a blatant disregard of the only probative evidence in the record, the court decided to side with the Trademark Office and to just make up facts.  The only facts in the record are that Muslims themselves understood Islamisation to be the political and military conversion of a civil society to a sharia-based theocracy.  There was not one piece of evidence that a single Muslim felt disparaged by the mark.”

Yerushalmi continued:

“In short, the court ignored the reality that ‘Stop the Islamisation of America’ neither disparages nor brings into disrepute law-abiding Muslims because it quite appropriately distinguishes between Islamisation as a process hostile to our political system on the one hand and the law-abiding practice of Islam as an entirely protected First Amendment exercise of religious freedom on the other.  This ruling demonstrates how far sharia-adherent Islamists are insulated by political correctness.”

AFLC will likely seek review of this decision in the U.S. Supreme Court.