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Central Committee of Hamilton County Republican Party v. Dalton

Close Date: 11/23/2005
Topic(s): Internet Free Speech - Right To Speak Anonymously
Status: closed
Date Of Involvement: 11/28/2005

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In this case, we represented Michael Dalton who created a website critical of the Hamilton County Republican Party in Ohio. The party requested that the site be shut down because its domain name, www.hamiltoncountyrepublicanparty.com, is nearly identical to the domain name of the party’s Web site, www.hamiltoncountyrepublicanparty.org. The party alleged thatDalton, a Cincinnati resident, committed trademark infringement and is guilty of unfair competition.

Judge Ralph E. Winkler denied the party’s motion to immediately order Dalton to refrain from using his Web site. In a memorandum of law filed to coincide with the hearing, Public Citizen argued that because the Web site is strongly critical of Republicans and several Republican judicial candidates, no reasonable viewer would confuse it with the Hamilton County Republican Party’s true Web site, and therefore there is no trademark infringement.

In his brief, Dalton also argued that the party’s motion for a temporary restraining order should be denied because such an order would constitute a prior restraint on political speech that would violate core First Amendment principles, and because trademark law pertains only to commercial speech made to promote a business. Moreover, legal precedent has established that trademark law is not implicated when a Web site is devoted to criticizing the holder of a trademark and is unlikely to confuse viewers. In response to Public Citizen’s opposition, the Republican Party withdrew its lawsuit and its motion for injunctive relief.