(CN) – The U.S. Chamber of Commerce sued the Yes Men, a theatrical protest group that held a fake press briefing at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., claiming the Chamber had switched its position on climate change. The Chamber has lost some prominent members lately because of its opposition to action against global warming.
The Yes Men specialize in public hoaxes targeting corporations. The Chamber’s federal complaint in the District of Columbia claims the Yes Men violated trademark law by using its copyrighted emblem in the prank.
The chamber called the prank “nothing less than commercial identity theft masquerading as social activism.”
The Yes Men also issued a fake press release, posting it on a spoof Web site bearing the Chamber’s trademark. The Chamber said it sued after lawyers for the Yes Men refused to take down the Web site.
To the Chamber, the joke – and the phony Web site’s “painstaking” and “sophisticated” design – went too far.
“Rather than create a parody site that resembles the Chamber’s site, the fraudulent pages copy embedded software elements from the Chamber’s web site,” the complaint states. “This ensures that if a visitor ‘clicks’ any links on the fraudulent pages they are taken to the authentic chamber web site.”
After the escapade at the National Press Club, the Yes Men released a movie about their pranks, called “The Yes Men Fix the World.”
The Chamber claims that the group’s refusal to take down its phony Web site was “another bold attempt to increase sales of merchandise and tickets to their new movie.”
The prank was predicated on Chamber’s longtime opposition to the adoption of a federal carbon tax. The Yes Men invited reporters to a press conference at the National Press Club, where, standing at a podium adorned with the Chamber logo, a member of the group pretended to be a Chamber spokesman.
The Washington Post, Reuters, Greenwire and Mother Jones all sent reporters, and a few media outlets fell for the joke and printed brief reports that the Chamber had ended its opposition to claims of global warming.
The Chamber’s opposition has led Apple, Nike and other major corporations to quit the National Chamber.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal’s Marketwatch, the Yes Men’s Andy Bichlbaum said he would welcome a Chamber lawsuit over the use of its logo because “it would bring even more attention to the issue.”
The Chamber want the Web site removed, an injunction and damages and court costs. It is represented by Richard Wyatt Jr. with Hunton & Williams.