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National Urban League Threatens Court Action Against U.N. Over Alleged Copyright Infringement

By Hazel Trice Edney


morial-nul logo

NUL President/CEO Marc Morial says he will take the U.N. to court if it does not cease the “unauthorized use” of the NUL’s logo.

( – The National Urban League (NUL), among the nation’s leading civil rights organizations, has launched a heated legal battle with an unlikely source – the United Nations (U.N.).

Threatening court action that could result in “embarrassment to the United Nations”, NUL President/CEO Marc Morial has asked U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to intervene in what NUL has described as the U.N.’s “ongoing illegal and unauthorized use of the National Urban League’s trademarked logo.”

In a statement, NUL President and CEO Marc H. Morial said he was “absolutely surprised to learn that the United Nations began utilizing our logo without checking registrations in the United States patent or trademark office and then willfully refusing, despite voluntary requests to comply with our suggestion, to discontinue the use of our logo.”

Morial has also asked U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power for their assistance in protecting the trademark.

Since sending a December letter to the U.N., demanding that they stop using the logo, Morial told the Trice Edney News Wire in an email that he has yet to hear back from the international governing body.

“[We] have not heard from the UN,” Morial wrote April 5. “We will press aggressively to protect our intellectual property.”

According to the NUL release, the National Urban League “has used the equal sign logo, since 1968 and obtained a federal registration for the logo in 1992.”

National Urban League President/CEO contends this logo design, being used by the U. N. is too similar to the NUL's equal sign logo, used since 1968.

National Urban League President/CEO contends this logo design, being used by the U. N. is too similar to the NUL’s equal sign logo, used since 1968.

The logos are in fact strikingly similar. Both have circles and an equal sign in the center. The main difference is the U.N.’s version has a broken circle. The U.N., why goal is to maintain “international peace and security”, is using it for their Sustainable Development Campaign.

“While we appreciate and commend your efforts, we believe that the use of NUL’s Mark in connection with your activities may cause confusion, cause mistake or deceive the consuming public as to the source, sponsorship, association or affiliation of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development Campaign and serve to dilute the value of NUL’s Mark in violation of our rights under the Lanham Act,” states the NUL letter.

The Lanham Act is the federal “Trademark Act of 1946” which “governs trademarks, service marks, and unfair competition,” the NUL described in a statement.

NUL’s demand to cease use of the logo appears to be escalating as Morial has reached out to the Secretary-General.

“As a historic civil rights organization that serves those of economic and social disadvantage in this country with a focus on African Americans, our organization is well-known and our logo is well-socialized in this nation,” Morial wrote. “I am respectfully requesting your immediate intervention into this matter to avoid an embarrassment to the United Nations as well as to avoid the possibility of contentious and expensive litigation by the National Urban League against the United Nations.”

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