A pro-life group that criticizes the high rates of abortion among black women has won an appeal in a trademark dispute with one of the nation’s oldest civil rights group.
The Radiance Foundation “in no way infringed upon or diluted” the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s trademark rights for NAACP, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said this week.
The pro-life foundation, led by Ryan Bomberger, a black pro-life leader, posted a 2013 article critical of the NAACP’s support of abortion, and mocked it as the “National Association for the Abortion of Colored People.”
The NAACP threatened the foundation for damages for trademark infringement.
Mr. Bomberger and the foundation sought a federal ruling to dismiss the legal threat. However, U.S. District Judge Raymond A. Jackson in Norfolk, Va., ruled in favor of the NAACP.
Radiance appealed with the help of an attorney affiliated with the Alliance Defending Freedom, and the appellate panel overturned Judge Jackson’s ruling, saying the NAACP did “not have actionable claims for trademark infringement.”
“It is important not to lose perspective,” Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III wrote for the appellate court in its May 19 ruling.
The First Amendment protects all kinds of speech, including parody, satire and criticism, the ruling said. Radiance’s twist on the famous NAACP moniker “follows in the same vein as articles that refer to the NRA as the ‘National Republican Association’ or the ACLU as the ‘Anti-Christian Lawyers’ Union’, ” it said, referring to the National Rifle Association and American Civil Liberties Union.
A request for comment from the NAACP about an appeal or the ruling was not immediately available Wednesday.
Mr. Bomberger said on theradiancefoundation.org that the lawsuit was ironic, as it pitted a wealthy civil-rights group against a black man for exercising one his most basic rights — “the freedom of speech.”
In its toomanyaborted.com/civilwrongs web site, Radiance says in New York City, nearly 60 percent of black children are aborted, and that the abortion rate for black women is almost five times higher than among white women.
Pro-choice groups counter that black women struggle with more unintended pregnancies, problems with health care and insurance, and higher rates of sexual violence and poverty.