Chicago State University (“CSU”) has threatened legal action against a blog run by CSU faculty members if it is not disabled. CSU alleges the blog uses trademarks and trade names without CSU authorization. Since then, while the blog is still active (see, http://csufacultyvoice.blogspot.com/), it has changed its name and image.
Active since 2009, the blog has posted information criticizing CSU’s administration, including their policies and hiring practices. This November, CSU’s Vice President and General Counsel, Patrick Cage, alleged that in addition to its trade name violations, the site also “violates the University’s values and policies requiring civility and professionalism of all University faculty members.” Approximately eight faculty members contribute to the site and use their own names or pseudonyms. Additionally, prior to its recent alteration, the blog used a picture of an on-campus “Chicago State University” sign and CSU hedge sculpture. The blog is now titled “Crony State University” and has replaced the campus image.
CSU has stressed that the legal notice has nothing to do with any ill feelings between the faculty and administrators, but rather because of the unauthorized trademark usage. However, this argument has zero legal basis as trademarks cover uses in commerce, not criticism, which is what the faculty-run blog is entirely run on. Moreover, given that the alleged infringing names and photos have been removed, it seems as though CSU’s concerns should be settled.
However, this isn’t the first time CSU has attempted to inhibit criticism from within. In fact, last year, CSU officials ordered that only authorized university representatives could release University information to the media, and that everyone else required prior approval. This policy is said to be under review. Additionally in 2010, a former attorney for CSU filed suit alleging that the school’s president retaliated against him for refusing to withhold documents from a FOIA response. Lastly, in 2011 a judge held that the school violated the First Amendment rights of its own campus newspaper when administrators fought it for publishing stories that shed negative light on the administration.
If your First Amendment rights have been violated by a trademark bully, contact the trademark lawyers at Revision Legal to aid in your defense at 855-473-8474.