WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama's re-election campaign won at least a partial victory Monday against a website it said was selling counterfeit T-shirts, bumper stickers and buttons with the campaign's signature "O'' logo.
A judge in Washington agreed to bar Washington-based Demstore.com from selling merchandise with the "O'' logo. But the judge reserved judgment on whether the website should also be barred from selling merchandise with a logo that uses the distinctive "O'' as part of the year 2012.
Judge Emmet Sullivan said lawyers for the campaign had shown the campaign owns the trademark on the so-called "rising sun" logo, a blue "O'' with red and white stripes at the bottom. The campaign has also applied for a trademark on the 2012 logo, but it has not been granted. Sullivan ordered both sides to provide more information.
A lawyer for Demstore.com's owner, Washington Promotions & Printing Inc., had argued that many companies are selling similar merchandise. The lawyer also argued the Obama campaign knew Demstore.com was selling similar merchandise during the 2008 campaign but delayed in filing a lawsuit until 2011.
The judge, however, sided with lawyers for Obama campaign, who said the campaign is being harmed by Demstore.com's sales. During the last election, the campaign says it made approximately $37 million from sales of merchandise with the "O'' logo. The Obama campaign loses money when a buyer purchases from Demstore.com, lawyers said. More importantly, though, when someone makes a purchase from the Obama campaign's website, the campaign gets that person's information and the ability to interact with them again, lawyers said. They don't get that information if a buyer purchases from Demstore.com.
A lawyer for the owners of Demstore.com, Washington Promotions & Printing Inc., argued that the people buying from Demstore.com aren't the same as those who buy merchandise from Obama's website. The lawyer, Michael Culver, said Demstore.com's customers are primarily groups and organizations buying buttons and T-shirts in large quantities, 100 or more, to distribute. Those include people working for the Obama campaign who want low-priced goods, he said. For example, a white T-shirt with the Obama logo is $30 at the campaign's website, but a group that wants to buy in bulk can get 500 T-shirts from Demstore.com at $5.49 each.
The company, which has been in business since 1985, has previously sold merchandise supporting Democratic candidates for president including Bill Clinton, Al Gore and John Kerry.
Obama's campaign filed a nearly identical lawsuit against Demstore.com in October 2011 in Chicago, but voluntarily dismissed it in January after Washington Promotions & Printing argued the lawsuit was improperly brought in Illinois. The present lawsuit was filed in Washington in June. Both sides will file more information with the court before the end of July.