By: M.L. STEIN
IN A TURNABOUT, a veterans group is again waving the Stars and Stripes in the face of a possible lawsuit over the use of the name.
The Stars and Stripes Association (SSA), an organization of former staffers of the Armed Forces newspaper, appeared last March to back down over using the title when the National Tribune Corp. (NTC) of Washington, D.C., threatened to sue over the association’s use of the name on its membership newsletter (E&P, March 30). NTC publishes the domestic edition of Stars and Stripes and asserts it has owned the trademark on the name since 1926.
When the dispute first arose, Maury Martin, secretary of the SSA and editor of the Stars and Stripes Association News, said that, pending a polling of the membership, it appeared SSA would reluctantly change its name rather than engage in an expensive lawsuit. In fact, SSA already had tried out a series of new names including the Association of Stripers and the Stripes Association News.
Martin told E&P that the membership survey produced mixed opinions on whether to continue with the association’s original name, some fearing the cost of a lawsuit.
“But essentially, they felt the board of directors should decide the matter and the board voted to keep our name,” he continued.
In the News’ June issue, a column by Martin stated: “Many of our members agreed to go along with a change, but most reluctantly and with many comments.”
Among the comments, he related, was that, “If terms such as ‘aspirin’ can fall into the public domain from generic use, the words ‘Stars and Stripes’ have been in the public domain since Betsy Ross sewed on the last star . . . .”
Martin also asserted that the Stars and Stripes alumni group had used the name for five years with no challenge from NTC.
He added that his research disclosed that 23 trademarks containing the words Stars and Stripes have been issued in the last 10 years with “no apparent objection” from NJC.
“This is an emotional issue for many of our members,” Martin said. “We’re the guys who prepared and distributed the newspaper for 50 years and some of our colleagues were killed reporting for it in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
“I can’t understand what the problem is. We’re a nonprofit organization and our newsletter “We are now financially prepared to do
battle,” Martin announced in the newsletter is not sold or distributed commercially. Only members get it.”
The problem, replied NTC chairman Howard E. Haugerud, is that his firm owns the trademark “and I’m not going to lose it. I have nothing against the veterans organization but the name is ours.”
Haugerud said he had not seen a copy of the latest Stars and Stripes newsletter and would not comment on a possible lawsuit until he consults his attorney.
When the conflict first erupted, NTC’s lawyer, Nina Graybill of Washington, warned of a lawsuit in a letter to SSA and advised the group to consult an attorney.
Martin said many of the SSA’s 450 members have pledged several thousand dollars to hire an attorney to defend SSA against a lawsuit if one is filed.
“We are now financially prepared to do battle,” Martin announced in the newsletter. “I personally believe we would win. We want to solicit journalistic and political support if legally challenged. We then should pull out all the stops.”