I’ve been fighting for brand protection and the First Amendment all of my life and it alarms me when government or industry try to quell free speech or stop a person from building a brand. When I was in the seventh grade in the 1980’s, I read a 1945 book called “Animal Farm” that shaped me in a way that no book has done since, more than thirty years later. In the introduction to the book, the author wrote:
If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear. ~ George Orwell
United States Patent and Trademark Office
The most relevant recent fight for the First Amendment in brand protection began when legal scholar Ron Coleman took on a client who, as Asian-Americans, attempted to register the trademark for their band “The Slants“. Even though the band’s sole focus was making marginalized communities feel included, they were turned down by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for utilizing what the government considered a “disparaging mark”. Ultimately, the Supreme Court of the United States, in a landmark decision, stated that their name was legal. Thanks to the courage and perseverance of The Slants and Mr. Coleman, this decision will be used to defend free speech in branding for centuries to come.
Registrars and Web Hosts
The next example of the fight for the First Amendment in brand protection recently came to my attention when the social network Gab.com was terminated by Godaddy for not censoring free speech. Gab was targeted for censorship because a recent mass shooter in Pittsburgh was a member, and the entire tech community left Gab to fend for itself. As all popular online forums and social networks do, Gab’s management spoke out against this violence after it occurred. While you or I may not agree with members of fringe political speech, we may agree with past fringe dissents like John F. Kennedy’s criticism of the Bay of Pigs Invasion, or Margaret Chase Smith’s opposition to McCarthyism. You and I, corporate America, or the government are not to decide what dissent is to be censored. Gab was targeted because they don’t censor conservatives, or anyone. That’s not the world we all prefer to live in. Orwell states it best above. The tolerance of unpopular speech is the first evidence of a free society.
This led me to discover Epik.com, the registrar that became the new home for Gab. Epik is ICANN-accredited and also provides escrow services. Epik is based in Seattle, and led by a veteran entrepreneur in the tech industry. As a company, we moved all of our domains over to Epik.
As people in the branding world, what the heck are we all fighting for? If it isn’t for people to build a brand and let society decide, I don’t know what is.