📦 Amazon Labor Union
☕ Starbucks Workers United
📱 Apple Retail Union
⚔️ Medieval Times Performers United
It's the latter that has caught the ire of the employer (Medieval Times), which has now filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against the union.
In a statement, the American Guild of Variety Artists calls the lawsuit "frivolous."
It is a grotesque attempt to retaliate against workers for exercising their legally protected right to form a union and bargain collectively. But it will fail. It will not only embolden Medieval Times' employees at its New Jersey castle to fight harder for a fair contract, it will inspire the employees at its other castles across the county to organize and do the same.
I'm not a trademark attorney, and I'm not even going to attempt to play one on this blog. I am, however, a labor and employment attorney, and I do know for a fact that the NLRB has opined that an employer commits an unfair labor practice by implementing policies that prohibit employees' use of corporate trademarks and logos.
Although the Employer has a proprietary interest in its trademarks, including its logo if trademarked, employees' use of its name, logo, or other trademark while engaging in Section 7 activity would not infringe on that interest. Courts have identified three interests that are protected by the trademark laws: (1) the trademark holder's interest in protecting the good reputation associated with his mark from the possibility of being tarnished by inferior merchandise sold by another entity using the trademark; (2) the trademark holder's interest in being able to enter a related commercial field at some future time and use its well-established trademark; and (3) the public's interest in not being misled as to the source of products offered for sale using confusingly similar marks. These interests are not remotely implicated by employees' non-commercial use of a name, logo, or other trademark to identify the Employer in the course of engaging in Section 7 activity related to their working conditions.The NLRB adds, "Even if trademark principles were applicable to this kind of use, there is no unlawful infringement where use of a trademark would not confuse the public regarding the source, identity, or sponsorship of the product."
Thus, Medieval Times Performers United does not appear to unlawfully infringe on any of the intellectual property of Medieval Times, while the company's attempt to limit use by employees likely infringes the rights of their employees to engage in protected concerted activity.
Legalities and illegalities aside, I'd like to focus your attention on this statement by the union about the filing of the infringement lawsuit: "It will not only embolden Medieval Times' employees at its New Jersey castle to fight harder for a fair contract, it will inspire the employees at its other castles across the county to organize and do the same." I'll add that it will also create a public relations nightmare for the employer.
The union calls this lawsuit "unlawful thuggery … meant to intimidate employees who are trying to organize." It's hard to disagree.