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Election Security Has Become A Partisan Issue As Senate Votes Down Funding

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It shouldn't matter which party you belong to (or if you belong to no party at all): fixing our totally broken election security should be a priority. This is a topic we've written about on Techdirt for nearly 20 years. The broken system of electronic voting has always been a security disaster, and now with more direct attempts to influence elections happening, it should be even more of a priority. And yet, following the lead in the House, this week the Senate voted down an amendment from Senator Patrick Leahy providing more funding for election security.The vote was almost exactly along partisan lines, with only one crossover (Senator Bob Corker was the only Republican who voted for the amendment). While there were some arguments made against the bill, they don't make much sense:

Sen. Blunt said that states are responsible for running their elections, not the federal government, and that providing more funds would give the impression of federal overreach.
Sen. Lankford said on the floor Wednesday, referencing the omnibus funds, the $380 million amount is what was needed for the moment," and indicated he didn't want to fund states beyond that right now.
There can be reasonable questions in how this money is being spent, and what's being done to actually secure elections, but the fact that this seems to be becoming a partisan issue should worry us all. And, I know some of you will be tempted to do this, but claiming that Republicans are against this because insecure technology helps them get elected is not a serious response. That's not only cynical, but almost certainly incorrect.However, at a time when Congress (including many of the Senators who voted against this) have been grandstanding about tech companies being used to influence elections, the fact that they would then not really care that much about our woefully undersecured voting infrastructure just seems ridiculous. For years, we've argued that when tech policy issues get partisan, they get stupid, and it would be a real shame for election security, of all topics, to become stupidly partisan.

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posted at: 12:21am on 03-Aug-2018
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Monster Energy Opposes Trademark For Liquor Company Logo, But Will Have A Fight On Its Hands

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Long-time Techdirt readers will likely hear the name Monster Energy and immediately roll their eyes. The energy drink company's reputation for being an insanely aggressive trademark bully probably actually competes with its reputation for making beverages. The company has attempted to trademark bully companies that range from differently-named root beer makers to companies that make video games. Notable in most of these bullying attempts is how little likelihood for confusion there actually is between Monster's marks and those who it attempts to bully. And, of course, the sad reality that many victims bend to Monster's demands rather than put up a legal fight.But one liquor distillery that has had Monster Energy oppose the trademark application for its logo is claiming it's going to fight back.

Family-owned MurLarkey Distillery in Bristow says it is taking the fight to Monster Energy, the energy drink company, over the right to trademark its “M” logo, which appears on its liquor bottles and merchandise.After MurLarkey applied for the trademark, Monster Energy lodged an objection with the U.S. Patent Trade Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board in May. MurLarkey’s Tom Murray says he is not going to be bullied by a company that has become known for its overly aggressive tactics enforcing its trademark rights.
Now, the logos in question are not completely dissimilar. Here they are, side by side.

Except there are a number of problems here. First, the reason these logos look similar at all is because the both prominently feature a big "M." That single letter is absolutely not unique. The other reason they might seem similar to your eye is because both feature the actual names of the company in smaller type below that "M." There's some aesthetic similarity in that. But those are really the only arguments Monster has here, because everything else about this makes it unlikely anyone is going to be confused by Murlarkey's logo. Let's count the ways.To start, the two companies operate in different markets. Yes, both serve liquid for consumption, but one makes an energy drink, while the other is selling liquor, such as vodka. Those are distinct markets and not easily confused during the purchasing process. Beyond that, Murlarkey's logo features its name, a different font for its "M", and the addition of three stars at the top of the logo. These are all far more unique than having a big "M" as part of the logo. Add on to all of that the fact that the "M" logo is used sparingly on liquor bottles themselves and, when it does, is featured on a tiny label near the mouth of the bottle, and any chance for confusion vanishes. Hell, even the apparel Murlarkey's is selling with versions of the logo is obviously benign.
If that causes you to at all think of Monster Energy drinks, then you have brain damage and need immediate care. But with Monster Energy, it's never actually about customer confusion. Instead, the company is nearly pathological in its trademark bullying, as if the legal team there sees someone using an "M" and just can't help but scratch that trademark bullying itch.Let's just hope that Murlarkey's makes good on its promise to fight back.

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posted at: 12:21am on 03-Aug-2018
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