Does Clinton Have Copyright Problem?

University of Richmond holds the trademark on "Solutions for America," the name for many of her campaign events.
February 25, 2008

Hillary Clinton's campaign has of late been pushing charges that Barack Obama plagiarized some phrases in his campaign speeches.

But what about one of Clinton's favorite phrases: "Solutions for America"? It's the name for many of her campaign events. Today will feature "Solutions for America" rallies by the campaign in Ohio, and the phrase has appeared as backdrop for many campaign rallies. It turns out, however, that an organization other than the Clinton campaign has the rights to the phrase.

"Solutions for America" is the registered trademark of a University of Richmond program with the Pew Charitable Trusts to help local communities work on a series of social problems. The emphases of the program -- promoting child health, reviving neighborhoods, creating jobs -- have considerable overlap with Clinton campaign themes.

But the University of Richmond/Pew program is promoting local, nonpartisan programs, not any one candidate's campaign. The Web site of "Solutions for America" clearly indicates on the bottom a copyright by the University of Richmond and the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office indicates that Richmond obtained the trademark on the phrase, going through the standard legal process to do so.

The University of Richmond's press office is typically friendly and responsive, but officials there refused to answer any question about why the institution's trademarked slogan was being used by the Clinton campaign and whether she had permission to do so. We do know that Richmond takes its trademark rights seriously, and doesn't like other entities using the phrase.

In 2005, for example, the American Council on Education started a campaign called "Solutions for Our Future" to highlight the role of higher education in solving problems facing American society. The consulting firm that worked with the ACE on developing that campaign told Inside Higher Ed that year that the group wanted the "Solutions for America" slogan, but that the University of Richmond had rights to the phrase and wouldn't share them.

Calls and e-mail to the Clinton campaign press office -- explaining that there were questions about the rights to the phrase "Solutions for America" -- were not returned.


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