May 27, 2005  ·  Lessig

It’s just been announced that the South African Constitutional Court has decided in favor of Laugh It Off. Laugh It Off had produced a series of t-shirts which used trademarks to make critical points about the trademark owner. The most famous of these shirts was one that used a famous beer label “Black Label” and remixed it to a “Black Label, White Guilt” logo. The producers of the t-shirt were sued, and lost in three courts. The Constitutional Court has now apparently reversed the judgment. I’ve not seen the opinion yet, and will update when it is posted. Here’s an article with some background.

Update: Here’s the decision.

  • nathaniel

    Actually, the shirts say “Black Labour, White Guilt” in the same logo format. A contemporary classic!

  • James Day

    That decision is somewhat worrying, for it mentions the possibility of the trademark holder prevailing if actual economic harm can be shown. Presumably one purpose of the shirts is to point out flaws in the moral position of the trademark brand and hence influence the public to be less likely to purchase the trademarked goods.

  • David Horwitz

    the image that was on the t-shirt can now be seen on their website:

    Unlike James I think the judgment made a good effort to find a balance to between speech and property (trademark) – what was striking about the lower court descisions was their refusal to even consider this. The suporting judgment (by Justice albie Sachs) makes interesting reading on parody and its legal protection/evaluation.