Obama campaign committee sues store over logo use

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By JESSICA GRESKO, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama's re-election campaign is suing a website that sells T-shirts, bumper stickers and buttons with the campaign's signature "O'' logo, claiming the store is infringing on its trademark.

In a lawsuit filed Friday in federal court in Washington, the committee says Demstore.com is illegally selling products with two of its logos. The first is the campaign's so-called "rising sun" logo, a blue "O'' with red and white stripes at the bottom. The other is a 2012 logo that includes the "O."

Lawyers for the campaign are asking the court to stop Demstore.com from using the logo and award damages. The lawsuit says the campaign is being harmed by the sale of the competing items.

That's because the campaign makes money from merchandise sales on its own website and doesn't get that money, which is considered a campaign contribution, when people buy the items on another site. The campaign also misses out on a chance to get the contact information of people buying the merchandise — information that is used for future fundraising efforts.

Steve Schwat, the owner of Washington Promotions & Printing Inc., which runs Demstore.com, said he was disappointed by the lawsuit. He said hundreds and maybe even thousands of companies make similar products and that he has never had an issue before.

"We have always cooperatively worked with Democratic campaigns," he said.

Schwat said his company, which is based in Washington, has been providing Democrats with political materials since 1985 and worked with the presidential campaigns of Bill Clinton, John Kerry, Al Gore and Howard Dean, among others. He said state and county groups rely on his site, which supports only Democrats, to get materials. And he said those groups don't want to go to Obama's website and pay more. For example, a white T-shirt with the Obama logo is $30 at the campaign's site, but a group that wants to buy in bulk can get 500 from Demstore.com at $5.49 each.

"I think people prefer to have the freedom to buy the merchandise where they want to," Schwat said.

Obama's campaign filed a nearly identical lawsuit against Demstore.com in October 2011 in Chicago, but that lawsuit was voluntarily dismissed in January. Washington Promotions & Printing had argued the lawsuit was improperly brought in Illinois.

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