Civil Rights Groups at Odds Over Trademark

By ALEX PICKETT

(CN) – The National Urban League claims in court that a Florida-based LGBT rights group is infringing on the trademark and sowing confusion among the public.

In a complaint filed in federal court in Tampa on Dec. 5, the National Urban League acknowledges that both it and the defendants in the case — Equality Florida Inc. and its subsidiaries — “promote social equality and civil rights for marginalized persons.”

At the same time, however, they are also “direct competitors” for funding and other support.

The complaint says Equality Florida’s logo, a white equal sign surrounded by a green circle, is almost identical to the trademark the Urban League has used since 1968.

The only difference, the league says, is that its logo is usually colored red.

It says it fears that “consumers have been and will continue to be misled by Equality Florida’s use of a mark confusing similar to NUL’s mark.”

The National Urban League tried to solve the situation amicably, according to the complaint and sent the Florida organization two cease-and-desist letters over the last three years.

Equality Florida, formed in 1997 to advocate for the state’s LGBT community, did not immediately respond to a phone call and an e-mail seeking comment on the lawsuit.

Watson Haynes II, who is CEO of the Pinellas County Urban League in Florida, told Courthouse News the logo issue has nothing to do with Equality Florida’s mission.

“We agree with what the gay rights movement is doing,” Haynes said. “It’s a brand issue.”

This is not the first time the National Urban League has been protective of its logo. Earlier this year, the organization sent a cease-and-desist letter to the United Nations over its use of a similar logo for a sustainable development campaign.

The National Urban League is represented by Peter Harvey, of Patterson, Belknap, Webb and Tyler, in New York, and Lansing Scriven, of Trenam Law, in Tampa.