Let me be clear. I don't know jack about Alaskan Indian affairs. Alaska Native Regional Corporations? Never heard of them. Doyon, Limited- Neat name what is it?
But I do have a nose that can smell questionable legal tactics. And an eye that can spot the bending of legal doctrine. And my senses became activated by yet another example of IP law overreaching.
Doyon,Limited is an Alaska Native Regional Corporation. Very successful. With thousands of members (shareholders?) and a Board of Directors. And that Board chose to dismiss one of the senior executives- apprently without explanation.
This upset some folks. Who have started a proxy battle to have this gentleman or someone sympathetic to his POV elected to the Board. About now you are yawning. As you should be.
Such battles go on all the time. Where I live one is raging right now- we've got billboards and newspaper ads shoutng out the competing points of view.
But apparently Doyon's board of directors is afraid of any such public debate. And the sad fact is that they used trademark law in an effort to squelch discussion. The board instructed its big law firm to send a trademark cease and desist letter to the disgruntled "friends of doyon". While readily acknowledging that the friends were using the term Doyon as part of a proxy battle, big law firm concluded that the public would somehow confuse those seeking to oust certain board members with the board members trying to hang on to their seats.
And further that registering the domain was an act of bad faith on their part.
Never mind that the cases are legion that non commercial use of commercial symbols is not infringement. Never mind that specific parts of the federal tradmark act excuse otherwise potentially infringing use when such use is done to communicate in a timely manner. The all too familiar guiding principle seems to be: scare them into silence with a sternly worded letter that is truthy if not absolutely truthful.
For the moment ignore the morality- with the Web these efforts are far more likely to bring shame and embarassment rather than silence. I am always left asking myself: Why was it so easy to get a law firm to do their bidding?


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