Obama Campaign Sues Distributor

Suit Claims Washington Promotions & Printing Inc.'s Website Demstore.com Is "Creating Consumer Confusion"

ObamaAlleging trademark infringement, the Barack Obama re-election campaign has filed a federal lawsuit against distributor Washington Promotions & Printing Inc. (asi/355630), which operates the website Demstore.com. The suit claims the website – which sells apparel, buttons and bumper stickers with the campaign's signature "O" and "rising sun" logos – is "creating consumer confusion" and "competing unfairly" with Obama's official branded items.

"We are disappointed by the campaign's reaction," Steve Schwat, owner of Washington Promotions & Printing, wrote in an e-mail to Counselor. "Hundreds and hundreds of companies sell stuff with the Obama logo. Obama offices themselves order from us. It seems somewhat useless to stop one company from selling the gear with the logo on them, when, in fact, state and county Democratic offices can order from all these other vendors."

According to the filing, the campaign is seeking to stop Demstore.com from selling any items branded with the Obama logos and is also asking for damages, including profits the website may have earned using the "O" and "rising sun" marks. The campaign is arguing that it loses monetary contributions when supporters purchase Obama gear from Demstore.com and it also misses out on a chance to collect contact information from people buying merchandise, hurting future fundraising efforts.

Schwat disagrees with the suit's core allegations. "Demstore will not cost the campaign any money," he wrote. "If people can't get items from us, they will go to other sources." Schwat also thinks so many people just don't want to pay the much higher prices the president's official re-election site – BarackObama.com – charges. He asks: "What if someone wants to wear a button and support Obama, but they do not want to make a contribution? What if they do not want to pay $0.50 for a button that includes a contribution and they want to order 5,000 buttons and pay $0.29 each?"

This is not the first time the Obama campaign has sued Demstore. A similar suit was filed in Chicago in October of 2011, but was dismissed for jurisdictional reasons. The current suit was filed in Washington, D.C., where Schwat's company is located.