Maryland GOP says it used Ravens logo without permission

Party admits error in using trademarked material without OK

September 17, 2014|By Michael Dresser | The Baltimore Sun

The Maryland Republican Party admitted Wednesday that it used a trademarked logo of the Baltimore Ravens to raise funds without seeking the team's permission.

The party's executive director said it had been an error on his part.

The unauthorized use of the purple-and-black logo and Ravens shield came as the party publicized a fundraiser at a private home in Edgewater.

In emails, on Facebook and on the party Web page, the state GOP used the logo to invite people to "an afternoon of Ravens football and Republican Party politics" during Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns.

The solicitation advertised tickets at $55 per guest or $100 per couple, with donors of $1,000 receiving eight tickets and the title of "Pro-Bowl Sponsor."

Ravens spokesman Patrick Gleason confirmed Wednesday that the Republicans did not seek the team's permission to use the logos in that manner. Gleason said the Ravens "addressed [the matter] privately with the Maryland Republican Party."

Within minutes of The Baltimore Sun's inquiry about the use, the GOP began removing Ravens logo from its website and Facebook page.

Joe Cluster, the state party's executive director, took responsibility for the lapse, conceding that he hadn't considered copyright and trademark issues.

"I didn't even think about it," he said. "I'll take the bullet on that, and I'll take everything down right away."

Dirk Haire, the Anne Arundel County Republican hosting the event, said he had heard from the team and had stopped using the logo. But he argued there was no trademark issue involved. "It's not for a commercial purpose. A political purpose is not a commercial purpose," Haire said.

That's not the way the Ravens see it.

"Any unauthorized use of our trademark — regardless of who utilizes it or the intended purpose — is a trademark violation," Gleason said in an email.

Will Hubbard, director of the Law of Intellectual Property and Technology Center at the University of Baltimore School of Law, said the GOP's use of the logo might have fallen into a gray area had it not been coupled with the sale of tickets.

"I think that is a commercial use of the logo," Hubbard said.

Though the fundraiser was not explicitly billed as a Larry Hogan campaign event, Democratic Party spokesman Jared Smith mocked the GOP gubernatorial nominee over his party's fumble.

"Larry Hogan and the Republicans got flagged for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for exploiting the Ravens logo, so now they have to try yet another fourth-and-long play," Smith said.

michael.dresser@baltsun.com

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