In October 2008, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) announced that it planned to conduct random searches of riders’ belongings. In response, a local group called “Flex Your Rights” distributed a flyer at Metro stations informing people of their right not to be searched. They soon received a letter asserting that their use of Metro’s M logo in that flyer infringed WMATA’s trademark rights, and demanding that they apologize and destroy all copies lest WMATA “proceed with the necessary steps to force your compliance.”

We think WMATA would lose such a lawsuit, because no reasonable reader would think the flyer was WMATA’s own speech. We wrote to WMATA expressing that view and announcing that we would represent Flex Your Rights if Metro sued them. WMATA responded with a letter but took no further action. And it never initiated the planned searches, so our client had no need to continue to distribute its leaflet.

Date filed

January 7, 2009