State suing nonprofit group about Jindal billboard
BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A billboard criticizing Governor Bobby Jindal has the state suing the non-profit, MoveOn.org. The billboard calls attention to Jindal's decision not to expand Medicaid coverage. It's not the wording on the sign that's an issue, but the logo on the billboard.
Experts say it takes the average driver between five to seven seconds to read a billboard. The state's lieutenant governor believes there's a controversial message on one in particular that could be confusing those who are passing it.
"The state of Louisiana is trying to get MoveOn to take down our billboard," said Anna Galland, the group's executive director. "…which is critical of Governor Bobby Jindal for his stance on Medicaid expansion."
MoveOn.org is an advocacy group that gets involved in certain issues. The executive director and several supporters were at federal court in Baton Rouge Wednesday fighting to keep their billboard up. It's not the jab at Jindal for allegedly denying 242,000 people Medicaid, Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne says it's the look of the message.
"MoveOn has pretty much used our brand, used our copyrighted and trademarked symbolism. In both color, in style, and font and everything," Dardenne said following the hearing.
Dardenne says the logo on the sign is what his department, Culture, Recreation and Tourism uses to market the state and bring in tourists. Even their slogan, 'Pick your passion! is on the sign.
Dardenne says it could be confusing to people who may think his office is criticizing the governor.
Both sides laid out their arguments before federal judge Shelly Dick. Dardenne's attorneys say the sign needs to come down, claiming it causes harm to the logo and reputation of the lieutenant governor and the Department of Tourism.
MoveOn's lawyers argue the sign is a parody. They say Louisiana may not be such a great place to visit or live because of the governor's policy.
LSU law professor Lee Ann Lockridge says basically what the case amounts to is free speech versus trademark law.
"I would say the weight of authority is that MoveOn has at least a decent defense, if not a good one. In that they are arguing that trademark law is not absolute. That it does have breathing room for speech interests," Lockridge said.
Judge Shelly Dick said she did expect to make a ruling from the bench. However after both sides presented their arguments, she said she would issue a written ruling early next week.
MoveOn says their billboard campaign was only scheduled to stay up for a few more days.
When asked if he thought that would cause any more harm to the brand, Dardenne said he believed the harm has already been done.
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