Anti-war Web site creators face off with military academy over name dispute

NEW YORK– The creators of an anti-war Web site, West Point Grads Againstthe War, are facing off with the U.S. Military Academy at West Point after theacademy claimed the site violated trademark laws.

Thesite was founded by JimRyan, Bill Cross and Joe Wojcik after the three 1962 graduates became troubledby how President Bush was handling the War in Iraq.

”We threefounding fathers became increasingly concerned with the continuing lies of theBush administration and the continuing pattern of escalating behavior with Iranand Iraq,” Ryan said.

John Ward, a trademark attorney workingon the case for the Web site, said that Ryan received a letter from LoriDoughty, an attorney for the military academy, in April stating that the term

”West Point” needed to be taken off thesite.

”[Doughty] said they’re using the name withoutpermission, it’s unlawful use, they’re creating confusion and theyhave to stop using [the name] because they’re violating federal trademarklaws,” Ward said.

Doughty did not return calls for comment, butLt. Col. Kent Cassella, academy spokesperson, said that there have been somemisconceptions concerning the case.

”It was never about thecontent, there are folks out there who are trying to make it a politicalissue…We would have sent the exact same letter to the Web site, ‘WestPoint Grads for the War,”’ Cassella said.

He added thatthe academy works hard to protect the FirstAmendment.

”That’s what we teach here. In fact, all of uswearing the uniform hold our hand up and swear to defend that right to the deathif necessary,” he said.

After some correspondence betweenlawyers for both sides, West Point proposed a settlement that Ryan and hisco-creators rejected, Ward said. The terms of the settlement were that the sitescreators would obtain a written license agreement with the academy and wouldalso have to place a disclaimer on the site saying it was not affiliated withWest Point.

”The purpose of the disclaimer [is] to preventconfusion by the public because [West Point’s] argument is that [the siteis] causing confusion,” Ward said. ”People will see the use of theterm ‘West Point’ and say, ‘well you must be associated withthe school.’

”However, our clients said they did not wantto put up a disclaimer because there’s no possibility that someone wouldbe confused on this point.”

Ward said he sent a letterexplaining why the settlement was rejected and is currently waiting for aresponse from the academy.

”[The site’s creators] havethe right to call themselves West Point graduates because they are West Pointgraduates…they’re accurately describing their status in society and youcan’t use trademark law to prevent them from doing that,” Ward said.

”I think that once West Point came to understand that our answer is acomplete and accurate statement of the law…perhaps they had secondthoughts.”