To express his objections to Wal-Mart’s business practices, Georgia resident Charles Smith created a website and designs that merged Wal-Mart’s name with the word “holocaust” and arranged for CafePress.com to put the design on T-shirts, hats, bumper stickers and other items for sale online. In December 2005, Wal-Mart sent a letter and e-mail to Smith asserting ownership of trademarks in the name Wal-Mart, the star and the “smiley face” the company uses. The company threatened to sue Smith for infringing and diluting its trademarks and demanded he stop selling his items. Wal-Mart also demanded that Smith stop using the domain name “walocaust.com” and transfer it to Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart made a similar threat to CafePress.com, which immediately stopped making and selling Smith’s items.
Represented by Public Citizen, Smith filed suit against Wal-Mart, seeking a declaration that his designs do not violate trademark law and are protected by the First Amendment. The district court granted summary judgment for Smith on all claims, finding that his designs were parodies that did not create any likelihood of confusion or dilution of Wal-Mart’s trademarks.