Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Ride on Dykes!
San Francisco – Rev your engines girls and wear your name proud. “Dykes on Bikes” got the United States Supreme Court’s approval Monday to trademark the name when the court denied without comment a petition seeking review of a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit’s approval of the catchy name.

The high court’s denial of the petition allowing the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit’s decision to stand affirmed the “Dykes on Bikes” trademark and the San Francisco Women’s Motorcycle Contingent’s right to its exclusive commercial use.

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued a final registration of the trademark name “Dyke on Bikes.”

“I am delighted the Supreme Court denied review and that ‘Dykes on Bikes’ will be protected under law,” said SFWMC president Vick Germany in a January 8 news release. “We have used the name ‘Dykes on Bikes’ for over 30 years as a mark of pride and dignity, taking it away from those who formerly used it as an epithet. Thanks to yesterday’s ruling by the Supreme Court, our long battle to use a name that reflects our strength as women and as lesbians is finally over.”

Michael McDermott, who challenged the trademark application wasn’t pleased with the high court’s decision January 7. McDermott, a self-described men’s rights advocate from Dublin across the bay,
quoted Justice Antonin Scalia that the U.S. Supreme Court “has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda,” reported the San Francisco Chronicle January 7. Scalia said the now famous dissenting phrase in response to the court’s 2003 ruling overturning state sodomy laws.

Opposition to the “Dykes on Bikes” trademark initially surfaced in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s when the board originally denied the group’s 2003 application believing it to be “disparaging to lesbians.” A team of pro-bono lawyers stepped in with expert declarations from scholars, linguists, psychologists, and activists, according to the release, that demonstrated the word “dyke’s” own ugly duckling story evolving from being a derogatory epithet to a term of pride. The patent and trademark board reversed its decision and published the mark January 2006.

The SFWMC was represented pro-bono by Brooke Oliver and Pablo Manga of
Oliver-Sabec, P.C., Gregory Gilchrist, Gia Cincone, and Raquel Pacheco of Townsend and Townsend and Crew LLP, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

A month later, McDermott challenged the patent and trademark’s decision to approve the SFWMC’s exclusive use of “Dykes on Bikes.” McDermott alleged in his February 2006 appeal to the trademark that “it is disparaging based on the inclusion of the term ‘dykes,’” and that it is “compromised of scandalous and immoral material…associated with a pattern of illegal activity.”

Nearly a year and a half later, the patent and trademark board denied McDermott’s allegations. In July 2007 the patent and trademark board stated McDermott was not “implicated” by the trademark of “Dykes on Bikes” just for being a man. Second, McDermott was unable to demonstrate support for his position in spite of “sufficiently” pleading a “real interest.” The patent and trademark board and the SFWMC didn’t deny that.

“We are delighted with the ruling. It is now clear that asserting pride in being ‘Dykes on Bikes’ does not impact others negatively,” said Oliver, lead attorney on the case, in the release. “A lone person with a political objection to women’s political speech does not have standing to object to a trademark. More broadly, this decision protects every company’s trademark applications from being challenged by random individuals with an axe to grind.”

The women’s motorcycle group that kicks off the annual San Francisco LGBT Pride Parade down Market Street started when 20 to 25 women motorcyclists gathered at the head of the 1976 parade, according to the organization’s Web site. The Chronicle picked up the phrase “Dykes on Bikes,” coined by one of the women in the contingent and the rest is history.

Dykes on Bikes® grew into an LGBT community institution during more than three decades of roaring down San Francisco’s Market Street on the last Sunday of June. LB Gunn, Kalin Elliot-Arns, Christine Elliot, Sabine Balden and Mel formalized the loosely run group as the Women’s Motorcycle Contingent in the 1980’s, according to the group’s Web site. Today, the organization “supports, encourages, and motivates women motorcyclists everywhere,” according to the group’s Web site, and has more than 400 registered bikes for the San Francisco Pride Parade.

The Supreme Court case is McDermott vs. San Francisco Women's Motorcycle Contingent, 07-7126.
Photo courtesy of the Women's Motorcycle Contingent

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