Computer store owner Charles Smith is suing Wal-Mart Stores Inc. for the right to continue selling T-shirts critical of the company, The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.
Smith claims to have been making a point by comparing the giant retail company to the Nazis by creating T-shirt designs including “I (heart) WAL*OCAUST. They have family values and their alcohol, tobacco and firearms are 20% off,” the newspaper reported.
Wal-Mart launched a legal battle by writing a cease-and-desist demand that led Smith to file suit Monday in federal court in Atlanta. Former presidential hopeful Ralph Nader’s legal aid group, Public Citizen, is helping Smith, the report said.
“It’s about free speech and the right to comment on corporations and their images and their trademarks,” said Paul Alan Levy, the Public Citizen lawyer representing Smith. “Just because the trademark owner doesn’t like [it] doesn’t mean it isn’t a permissible use of language.”
In his suit, Smith asks the court to rule that his products are protected by the First Amendment and do not infringe on Wal-Mart’s trademark because there is no likelihood someone might think they were sponsored by Wal-Mart, the newspaper said.
Wal-Mart said it was required by trademark law to protect its name and logo, the Times reported.
Smith, a 48-year-old father of three from Conyers, Ga., said he made the designs after thinking that Wal-Mart’s destructive effect on people and neighborhoods was like the destruction wrought by the Holocaust, the Times said.