Today, the American Freedom Law Center (AFLC) filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court on behalf of Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer asking the Court to review the rejection of their trademark application for STOP THE ISLAMISATION OF AMERICA. Geller and Spencer are two well-known bloggers, authors, and social-political activists who oppose the imposition of Islamic law (or sharia) in any form in America and elsewhere in the West.
AFLC’s petition asks the Court to review the earlier ruling in May of this year by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The Federal Circuit, a specialized federal appeals court that hears most of the patent and trademark appeals from across the county, had upheld the Trademark Trial & Appeal Board’s (TTAB) denial of the trademark application for STOP THE ISLAMISATION OF AMERICA. In its ruling, the court of appeals agreed with the TTAB and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) that the trademark disparaged Muslims and unfairly linked them to terrorism.
In February 2010, Geller and Spencer, executive directors of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, an advocacy organization that raises awareness about the terror threat posed by sharia-adherent Islamists, applied to the PTO in Washington, D.C., 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 PTO rejected the 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. To reach this conclusion, however, the PTO ignored the record evidence and instead examined and parsed the political writings of Geller and Spencer.
AFLC, which is representing Geller and Spencer, is a national nonprofit law firm with a track record of successful trademark and copyright litigation. AFLC has defended the trademark application at every level of the appeal process, arguing 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 based on the evidence that “Islamisation” is the process of implementing sharia into a society in order to subvert the rule of law and to convert that society to a sharia-compliant Islamic state.
In its petition to the Supreme Court, AFLC argues that the Supreme Court should take up the case because the lower court and the TTAB effectively granted the PTO license to read a trademark applicant’s blog and other political writings and to then reject the trademark because the government did not approve of the applicant’s political viewpoint.
David Yerushalmi, AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel, commented:
“The only evidence in the record before the PTO and the Federal Circuit was that STOP THE ISLAMISATION OF AMERICA was an appropriate mark for trademark registration. In a blatant disregard of the evidence, the government and the court of appeals simply looked past the evidence, read Ms. Geller’s blog, and decided that the viewpoint of her political writings was disparaging of Muslims. This, despite the fact that Muslims themselves use the term ‘Islamisation’ to distinguish between the ‘bad’ political Islam fomenting jihad across the globe from the ‘good’ religion of Islam peacefully practiced by Muslims in America and elsewhere.”
Robert Muise, AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel, added:
“Permitting the government to deny a trademark based on an applicant’s political viewpoint is troubling and a violation of the First Amendment. What we are seeing here in the PTO is akin to what the IRS is doing to conservative and TEA party groups across the country. The Supreme Court needs to take up this important case.”