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Bear fight: Student Palestinian group claims UCLA complaint stifling speech

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By Doha Madani

A national student organization said Wednesday that the University of California in Los Angeles was trying to use trademark law to deter students from enjoying freedom of expression.

The University sent a letter of cessation and abstention on Oct. 31 to National Students for Justice in Palestine (NSJP) about an advertising flyer used by the 39, organization to announce its national conference, to be held at the school from 16 November.

The flyer included a bear wearing a keffiyeh head scarf going to a colorful kite to resemble the Palestinian flag and three doves.

UCLA, a public university, asks in its letter that the organization does not use the interpretations of Bruin Bear, his mascot, in association with the Palestinian flag, that some interpret violence against Israel.

"An examination of your website reveals the use of the name" UCLA "and constitutes an attempt to associate NSJP with Bruin Bear's mascot in a logo / digital poster. national conference, "says the letter. "Overall, these uses claim, suggest or imply endorsement or endorsement by the NSJP and / or its national conference by UCLA, which is simply incorrect."

[1945]  The original work of art of the national student court conference in Palestine includes the words "UCLA 2018 "in large print at the bottom of the screen.
The original work of art of the National Student Conference in Palestine includes the words "UCLA 2018" in large print at the bottom of the page. Courtesy of the ACLU of Southern California

NSJP, which has the student section of the school qualified UCLA's comment on his conception of "racist and gross denaturing" of the kite. The group said the kite was a symbol of freedom for Palestinians and a common pastime for children in Gaza. The NSJP also denied using the specific drawing of the UCLA Bruin Bear in his works.

"In accordance with our annual practice, we adopted a region-specific model for our 2018 conference," the group said in a statement Wednesday. . "We have chosen to honor years of advocacy work on the West Coast calling for respect for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people."

The grizzly bear was designated as animal from the state of California in 1945 and is prominent. on his national flag.

Intellectual property expert Michael N. Cohen, owner of the Cohen IP Law Group, told NBC News Wednesday that the legal standard for trademark infringement is the risk of confusion in the mind of consumer. And the use of the name of the university is restricted so that does not imply that the school is affiliated with, or is approved, favored or supported by any group without permission.

"So even if the [images] – if you do a side-by-side analysis – is different, the real question is whether this will confuse the minds of consumers in that which relates to the affiliation, the downline or the support, "said Cohen.

Cohen also stated that the argument that the NSJP used the state as a source of inspiration does not protect it from the law because of UCLA's close ties in the spirit of his bear mascot.

"This is a possibility of a defense that, if they have not done so, can probably be raised, but the opposite argument would be that, because UCLA is organizing the 'event, the association will be stronger with the UCLA bear rather than the state of California, "said Cohen.

 Compar Image of the Bruin Bear of UCLA and the National Students Poster for Justice in Palestine (NSJP) and the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).
Comparison of UCLA's Bruin Bear and National Students for Justice in Palestine (NSJP) and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) ] With the kind permission of the ACLU

The ACLU of Southern California sent a letter to UCLA alleging that the University has not applied similar rules regarding the use of its name in past student events and that the selective application of the California State Rule regarding its name was used to cool students' freedom of expression.

"Your insistence that" some "might perceive symbols of Palestinian freedom indicates that the real reason for the unconstitutional censorship of the SJP by the University is the group's support for Palestinian rights ", indicates the letter of the ACLU . "Your sensational denaturation from SJP's point of view is further evidence of point-of-view discrimination."

Tod M. Tamberg, a UCLA spokesman told NBC News in an email on Wednesday that "it was never the bear in itself "and that he enjoyed modifying the groups to remove the UCLA name. The university, which threatened to cancel the conference, also said that the event would proceed as planned.

"As you may have heard, some members of the Jewish community have strongly criticized the upcoming conference, demanding that UCLA has decided to cancel it," said L & # 39 school in a statement provided by Tamberg. "As a public university, UCLA is legally bound to abide by the First Amendment, which protects everyone's right to express one's opinions, even offensive and hateful, or at which the university s & rsquo; opposite."

Andrew Blankstein contributed.

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