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Starbucks Sends Cease and Desist Letter to Republican Candidate

Tiffany Smiley is running for Patty Murray's Senate seat in Washington state. The polls are getting tighter with Smiley just a few points behind. Smiley is a smart and determined woman who was trained as a triage nurse; she fought against the VA as well as her own Pentagon after her husband's blindness in Iraq. She's articulate and appears to be well-suited to the rough political game. The fact that she's attractive, as opposed to Murray's plainness, does not make her any less of a good candidate.

Smiley ran an advertisement recently which showed her in the middle of an abandoned structure that was once home to Starbucks. The ad criticizes Murray's “reckless policies” on crime and then reminds the voters that Murray has served in the Senate for over 30 years. The ad also includes overlays of Seattle Times headlines, in which it addresses crime.

“You can't even get a cup of coffee from a hometown shop on Capitol Hill,” Smiley says as she points to the abandoned building which has graffiti that has ruined the front of the store. The ad is effective and to the point. This is an excellent advert.

What was the reaction? The Seattle Times sent a cease and desist note to a person named “Jane Smiley.” No I'm not kidding, the dolt lawyer who concluded that The Seattle Times was on solid legal grounds couldn't find the correct name for Smiley. The Times claimed that Smiley was using copyrighted materials without permission.

One issue: she does not require permission. Smiley's ad quotes The Seattle Times, and the ad is based on the Times banner and logo because this is where the quotes came from. It's a political campaign. It's clearly not an endorsement from The Seattle Times. And no sensible person would consider the ad as an endorsement.

Smiley's campaign immediately informed the Times to pound sand. A knowledgeable lawyer on behalf of her campaign noted that if the Times find that it is an illegal use (without the permission of a license) and if so, Murray used similar banners or copyrighted materials in her advertisements should have prompted the need for a cease-and-desist notice. Of course, it didn't, since The Times has endorsed Murray. Smiley has filed a lawsuit with the Federal Elections Commission, claiming Murray wasn't granted a “license” when she did exactly the same thing in the 2016 election. The complaint claimed that:

“If a corporation makes its resources available for free, it must do so for all candidates.”

It’s not likely that the doomed lawyer who wrote the letter will recognize the flaw in the argument. However, Smiley is correct. Smiley also supports “fair use” and political speech arguments. In the simplest terms, The Seattle Times is evidently using petty and ignorant lawyers.

It's amazing that Starbucks also issued a cease-and-desist notice to Smiley at the same time. The Dolt lawyer(s) of Starbucks have correctly spelled Smiley's name. It's a step up but the only thing they did right. Starbucks' assertions and demands are absurd. This is a bogus and ridiculous demand. The building is a public one in a public area. There isn't an apparent Starbucks logo. However, there's a lot of graffiti. If Starbucks could have a legitimate argument that graffiti was spray-painted, then the vandals who spray painted graffiti could have a more convincing argument. Here’s one way her campaign could respond:

Hi Starbucks and ridiculous lawyers”

Your cease and desist “letter” is specious, absurd, and unsubstantial. But you are aware of that. We can sue you. If you do so, I will file for sanctions in accordance with Rule 11 and make a complaint(s) to the State bar against any lawyer whose name appears in the complaint. We will not accept any settlement.

In short the end result is that your cease and desist order is refused. We will sue you.

Sincerely,

Smiley’s Lawyers

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