No Means…Yes?

Monday, March 5, 2007

Written by Scott Gilbert

The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), Canada’s largest student union, produces numerous types of campaign materials to be distributed to member locals such as the CSA and GSA. One of their famous campaigns, which originated in 1994, is called “No Means No”, and is about raising awareness of date rape and violence against women. Their campaign posters are very recognizable and can be seen in the CSA office, and occasionally around the university.

The campaign was working well until Bluenotes came along. Recently, the mega jean retailer decided to make a knock-off of the design, and created shirts that look exactly the same as the CFS campaign posters, but instead say “No Means have aNOther”.

Upon discovery of this, the CFS contacted Bluenotes with a complaint based on both ethical and legal grounds. Ethically, they argued that such a shirt might actually encourage dating violence, and legally they came at it from a copyright infringement angle. The CFS has an open trademark on the No Means No image design, and the Bluenotes shirt is easily recognizable as being almost identical.

After the complaint Bluenotes pulled the shirts from all of its 116 stores, and apologized for the offensive shirt design. Bluenotes President Michael Roden then offered his design services to the CFS, and in a letter said Bluenotes was “committed to reflecting the values of its customers.”

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