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Pittsburgh Steelers Threaten NORML Chapter

The Steelers have picked a fight with NORML over the Pittsburgh chapter's parody of the Steelers logo. But rather than a protracted legal battle, the chapter agreed to sack their logo.

The Steelers logo features three hypocycloids, which each have four points inside a circle. The Pittsburgh NORML version replaces the hypocycloids with pot leaves. 

In a Oct. 9 letter to Pittsburgh NORML executive director Patrick Nightingale from from NFL assistant counsel Victoria Loughery, she wrote: "It has recently come to our attention that Pittsburgh NORML is engaging in unauthorized and infringing use of NFL Marks on websites and social media, and manufacturing, selling and/or offering for sale unauthorized products bearing NFL Marks for purchase via your website as well as your online shop… As a result of your organization's unauthorized use of NFL Marks to promote Pittsburgh NORML's business, the public is likely to be misled into believing that Pittsburgh NORML and/or its products are authorized, approved, sponsored by, or are otherwise affiliated with, the NFL and/or the Steelers Club, when they are not. Moreover, such unauthorized use may cause dilution of the Steelers Club's famous logo mark, and otherwise negatively impact NFLP's (NFL Properties) and/or the Steelers Club's trademark rights. Accordingly, we demand that Pittsburg NORML immediately cease and desist from any further use of the NFL Marks, whether on products, online, in print or any other promotional materials and remove from the marketplace (a) all unauthorized promotional materials bearing NFL Marks and (b) agree not to make any use of NFL Marks in the future without authorization from NFLP."

Pittsburgh NORML had until Oct. 16 to comply. Read the entire letter here.

On Oct. 16, Nightingale replied in a letter to Loughery: "We believe that our use of the hypocycloid was a 'fair use' under existing intellectual property law, and that there is little, if any, potential for confusion considering the fact that two of the Steelers starting players were suspended for cannabis-related matters to start the season. That said, however, we will comply with the Oct. 9 letter…

'We have no stomach for a fight with the nation's largest non-profit, the NFL.'

Read his entire letter here. Nightingale also writes on his blog page: "As far as making a fight against the League for our logo, we’re throwing in the proverbial terrible towel. We honestly believed that our use of the hypocycloid was a 'fair use' and therefore permissible under intellectual property law. However, we have no interest in going toe to toe with the Almighty National Football League. We hope, however that the league will listen to its own players, who are demanding access to a non-toxic and wholly natural pain management alternative. We still considered our logo a fair use, falling under the parody clause. Certainly no one would confuse marijuana leaves as being the true logo of the Steelers. However, we are a small, local non profit – not a multi-billion dollar non-profit like the NFL...

'We would rather work on legalizing marijuana in Pennsylvania than battle the all powerful NFL in court over a parody image.'

The players Nightingale is referring to are running back Le'Veon Bell, who was arrested for marijuana possession in 2104, and wide receiver Martavis Bryant, who failed a drug test  for pot in the off season. They were among the 26 NFL players who started the 2015 season with drug-related suspensions.

Update: Slightly more than a month after receiving the letter from the Steelers, Pittsbugh NORML revamped its logo, this time mimicing the logo of the local NHL, the Penguins. “We're not going to win the fight against cannabis prohibitions by appealing only to cannabis consumers,” Nightingale stated. “By raising the issue, the profile, your average voter who is not necessarily all that concerned about cannabis legalization can be informed that there is cannabis legislation out there.”

He expects to receive a cease and desist from the Penguins any day. “Are we going to get into an expensive lawsuit over intellectual property? No. That goes beyond my capability as an attorney and executive director of Pittsburgh NORML," Nightingale sighed

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Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of CelebStoner.com, editor-in-chief of Freedom Leaf, co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness, and the former editor of High Times.