Jason Selvig and Davram Stiefler, two Brooklyn, New York-based comedians and social commentators, won their fight to keep their parody website ChickfilaFoundation.com, after Atlanta-based quick-service chain Chick-fil-A filed a complaint, claiming the domain was "confusingly similar to the Chick-fil-A trademark and registered and used in bad faith."
Selvig and Stiefler created the site after Chick-fil-A president and COO Dan Cathy stated opposition to gay marriage during the summer.
ChickfilaFoundation.com features satirical videos, parodies and written content intended to critique the controversy, including a "coupon" for a free chicken sandwich to customers who renounce their homosexuality: "Trade your Homosexuality for a FREE Original Chicken Sandwich!"
The site also included fake "messages" from former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and from Cathy.
The case was heard by the World Intellectual Property Organization, Case No. D2012-1618, in an action entitled CFA Properties Inc. v. Domains By Proxy LLC and John Selvig.
According to a press release, Chick-fil-A's parent company, CFA Properties Inc., filed the complaint in September. Selvig and Stiefler contested the charges, retaining the New York Internet law firm Lewis & Lin LLC in their defense.
"The whole point of parody websites is to lead readers to briefly think that the website is perhaps coming from the company, and then realize that the message is a larger criticism and social commentary," David Lin, lead defense attorney, said in a release. "Chick-fil-A's trademark doesn't mean they have a right to silence legitimate commentary about their brand."
"While trademark law protects corporations from infringement, corporations can't use trademark law to squelch free speech made through parody and satire, which is what is occurred in this case," Lin added. "The website owners engaged in legitimate, protected free speech about Chick-fil-A's stance on gay marriage."
The World Intellectual Property Organization agreed, writing, "The Panel is not persuaded here that Respondent's registration and use of the disputed domain name has been shown to be for purposes of capitalizing on Complainant's trademark."
The full text of the decision is available online.
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