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Lambretta asked if hateful use of trademarked name is authorized

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While doing some internet searches to support Saturday’s column about Oregon Firearms Federation accusing anti-gun state senator Floyd Prozanski of lying when he promised his bill regarding private transfers would not accomplish registration, I by chance came across a bizarre “tweet” from an unlikely source.

“Oregon Firearms Federation are pigs,” Lambretta Club USA told its Twitter followers in August, 2010 (see screen shot accompanying this article). “You people need to be ‘put down’ with your own ammunition.” As backup in case the tweet is deleted, a screenshot of the Google search result is also included.

They publicly insult people who they disagree with about a right enshrined in the Bill of Rights to the point of calling them “pigs”? Beyond that, they endorse violent deaths for OFF members, and presumably for any who support their mission to promote and defend the right to keep and bear arms through educational and legislative efforts?

So much for vaunted “progressive” tolerance...

If this is part of that “national conversation on guns” the antis insist the country needs to have, the incentives for the pro-gun side to participate hardly seem compelling.

Why such unbridled and bloodthirsty hate would be coming from a group ostensibly formed to promote a shared love of Italian motor scooters is unclear, but it's reasonable to conclude posting privileges to the Twitter account have been limited to its leadership.

A quick perusal of the club's website reveals no particular axe they have to grind, nor do the names of any of their officers yield any clues, albeit that last page is apparently from their old site, because it tells prospective members “Lambretta Club USA is a non-profit organization.” I assume that's no longer the case because a quick check on the Guidestar online nonprofit resource indicates “This organization's exempt status was automatically revoked by the IRS for failure to file a Form 990, 990-EZ, 990-N, or 990-PF for 3 consecutive years. Further investigation and due diligence are warranted.”

How that allows them to continue to sell memberships and maintain their online store, or at least report any income from those endeavors, is unclear. Also uncertain is why it would be in the interests of the Lambretta trademark holders to allow a valued brand name to be used by a group that calls law-abiding gun owners they disagree with “pigs” and that wishes them to “be put down with [their] own ammunition.”

Who actually controls the trademarks is a bit difficult to fathom, as there appears to be a dispute that has resulted in court actions. Apparently some of the rights were acquired by Fiat and others by Scooters India, Ltd. Lambretta International bills itself as the "official site” and appears to be in the business of actively selling scooters. Meanwhile, the Lambretta Consortium notes rights to manufacture and distribute under the Lambretta brand have been challenged in international courts.

What’s clear is, the trademark is being jealously fought over, and any unauthorized use is considered by all parties to be a matter of vital economic interest. With that in mind, both entities are being approached with the following inquiry:

A trademarked name you have a vital interest in protecting has been used to call a group of political activists “pigs” and to endorse their violent deaths.

Lambretta Club USA sent that message about a group of gun rights activists in Oregon out to its Twitter followers. The person who wrote it did not post under a personal account, but one affiliated to Lambretta.

Whether you are for, against or neutral on private gun ownership is irrelevant to this inquiry. What is relevant is if you will sanction your brand name to be used by what appears to be a hate group -- one that sells memberships and merchandise incorporating the Lambretta name from a domain that does the same.

It is in both your interests to establish whatever controls you can over this situation: Lambretta Consortium would have its claims eroded if this group is free to devalue the trade name through its lunatic public statements, and Lambretta International has an obligation to ensure its U.S. dealers aren't dragged into this, as they could be if a response is not swift and decisive.

This message will be shared with American gun owners, who will notice if you silently allow the Lambretta name to be affiliated with people who think they are pigs and wish them dead, or if you instead do something meaningful and sincere about it.

That message will be sent along with a link to this column, and any response or lack of response will be reported in an update. While neither entity has control over what their hate-filled hoplophobic fanboys do or say, we'll see if they have any control over the abuse of their brand name.

The legal rights of trademark holders to obtain a cease and desist order under such circumstances is unclear, for instance, as it relates to a club or domain name, vs. merchandise, and if there are any formal agreements to allow for the affiliation and what clauses they contain about representing Lambretta's good name. Whether the competing Lambretta entities will address this and vigorously defend an already strongly-contested brand name, or choose to ignore it, is something that remains to be seen.

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When your turn to be tested comes, how will you fare? Wouldn’t it be better to stop the antis before they get that far? How can we, if most gun owners let a relative handful of activists do all the work? The latest GUNS Magazine "Rights Watch" column is online, and you can read it before the issue hits the stands. Click here to read "The Unconstitutional State.”

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