Denver Office Secures Favorable Settlement in Pro Bono Trademark Matter Involving Black Students’ Social Justice Podcast
Denver, Colo. (February 9, 2023) - Denver Partner Jeffrey Kass recently obtained a favorable settlement in a pro bono matter on behalf of a group of high school students who were seeking to prevent the Denver Public Schools’ (DPS) attempt to register a trademark for a social justice podcast that the students had created.
As described in a Law360 article on the case, four Black honors students attending Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Early College in Denver created the podcast, called “KNOW JUSTICE KNOW PEACE,” in 2020 following the murder of George Floyd. They used the podcast to raise money to buy Black history books for high school students. DPS attempted to register the podcast’s name, and Mr. Kass, on behalf of the students, filed suit against the district. In response, DPS filed a motion to dismiss, contending that because it had given up on its federal trademark applications and state registration, the case was moot. Mr. Kass opposed the motion, arguing that the case was still unresolved. Specifically, he maintained that the school district's assertion in its motion that it had abandoned all social media accounts pertaining to the podcast was misleading because DPS had not provided the accounts and passwords to the students. DPS subsequently agreed to settle the matter.
In discussing the settlement with Law360, Mr. Kass explained that DPS now has agreed to stop using the name of the podcast and to refrain from challenging federal or state trademark applications by the students. The district also agreed to turn over all social media accounts and passwords associated with the name. Noting that DPS had no right to claim the podcast title “just because [the students] used some school microphones from time to time,” Mr. Kass told Law360, “I don't think DPS had a leg to stand on at any time,” adding, “the case is over, and we’re thrilled.”
In addition, Mr. Kass explained that the students plan on continuing to use and promote the podcast, and that they recently received the passwords to the social media accounts. "We're going to file for federal trademark protection — the whole nine yards," Mr. Kass told Law360. He further noted that he represented the students on a pro bono basis because he is a racial justice advocate, stating, "I never thought in a million years my racial justice work would ever collide with my intellectual property work."
Firm Co-Chairman Bob Smith said, “At Lewis Brisbois, diversity, equity, and inclusion truly matter. We are very proud of Jeffrey and the outcome of this significant case on behalf of these clients.”
R. Gaylord SmithPartner
San Diego, CA