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Friday, 14 March 2014 00:00

Louisiana sues MoveOn.org over Bobby Jindal billboard

Written by  Lauren McGaughy | NOLA.com
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Louisiana is suing national left-leaning policy group MoveOn.org in federal court, saying it violated trademark rules when it put up a billboard and commissioned television ads critical of Gov. Bobby Jindal that use the state's tourism logo and motto. Republican Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne has been locked in a pitched battle with the group for weeks, unsuccessfully calling for it to take down the billboard that is currently up on the I-10 coming into Baton Rouge from Port Allen.

"We have invested millions of dollars in identifying the Louisiana: Pick Your Passion brand with all that is good about Louisiana. No group should be allowed to use the brand for its own purposes, especially if it is for partisan political posturing," Dardenne said in a statement announcing the suit.

READ DARDENNE'S COMPLAINT HERE

"MoveOn.org has every right to attack Gov. Jindal, the state's refusal to accept Medicaid or, for that matter, me personally. But they do not have the right to use our protected service mark, which is used solely for the purpose of promoting and marketing Louisiana. We own the mark and its use is under the direction of my office, not the Office of the Governor."

In response to the suit, MoveOn.org Civic Action's Executive Direct Anna Galland said the organization hasn't yet received notice of the complaint, but, "if press reports are accurate, it is very sad to see the state spend taxpayer money on a frivolous lawsuit instead of providing health care to the people of Louisiana.

"Once our lawyers receive and have a chance to fully review the complaint we will have more to say. In the meantime, we strongly urge Governor Jindal to do the right thing and allow 242,000 Louisianans to access Medicaid."

According to Dardenne, Baton Rouge based attorney Dale Baringer will take on the case for the lieutenant governor's office free of charge.

Keith Werhan, constitutional law professor at Tulane University Law School, said last week suits of this sort are usually unsuccessful: "The government can't legally silence those who are criticizing them."

MoveOn parodied the aforementioned "Pick Your Passion" brand by erecting their billboard around March 4, which reads: "LOU!SIANA Pick your passion! But hope you don't love your health. Gov. Jindal's denying Medicaid to 242,000 people."

The statement is aimed at Jindal's continued opposition to opting into the Medicaid expansion provision allowed under the Affordable Care Act. Studies have shown expansion would cover roughly uninsured 240,000 Louisianians; Jindal's office says while the cost is covered by the federal government in the near-term, it would be too burdensome in the out years.

In court documents filed Friday (March 14), Dardenne states MoveOn.org's billboard is causing "irreparable harm, injury and damages" to the state's culture tourism office, which he runs. He also makes reference to a cease-and-desist letter sent to the organization last week, which resulted in this response from MoveOn.org and their running television ads mocking the request. 

Dardenne is requesting the court order the group to take down the billboard, and cease to use any of the trademarked material in the "Pick Your Passion" brand, including the font, photo and artwork or colors. 

Dardenne is a candidate for governor next year.

 

Link to original article from NOLA.com

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