National Center for Lesbian Rights and Brooke Oliver Law Group Vow to Keep Fighting for Lesbian Visibility
(San Francisco, CA, July 14, 2005) — “Dyke is widely understood in the LGBTQ community to mean a proud lesbian publicly demonstrating her identity and publicly celebrating her identity and the positive diversity of that community.”ke is widely understood in the LGBTQ community to mean a proud lesbian publicly demonstrating her identity and publicly celebrating her identity and the positive diversity of that community.”
The San Francisco Women’s Motorcycle Contingent announced today that the United States Patent and Trademark Office has refused their request to register their name, “DYKES ON BIKES,” claiming the slogan is derogatory to lesbians.
“For 27 years, DYKES ON BIKES has proudly led the San Francisco LGBTQ Pride Parade,” said Vic Germany, president for the group. “We embrace the word Dyke and are proud to celebrate our identity,” she said.
“Dyke has been used for years to tear us down, shame us and keep us in the closet. But gay women everywhere have reclaimed the word as an expression of pride and empowerment,” said Soni Wolf, the group’s secretary. “Now DYKES ON BIKES contingents use this symbol of dignity and visibility with our blessing in Pride celebrations all over the country.”
The nonprofit San Francisco Women’s Motorcycle Contingent was forced to seek registration of “DYKES ON BIKES” when an individual, unassociated with the organization, attempted to use the phrase for commercial purposes and wanted to charge contingents throughout the country for its use. The SFWMC organization decided to obtain a trademark to protect the non-commercial use of the name and its meaning to the LGBTQ community from private commercial use.
Brooke Oliver, Founder/Managing Attorney of the Brooke Oliver Law Group, PC, and attorneys with the National Center for Lesbian Rights are representing the San Francisco Women’s Motorcycle Contingent. Oliver explained, “The Trademark Office initially rejected our application on the ground that the term “DYKES ON BIKES” is disparaging to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. We responded with arguments and evidence trying to educate the USPTO about how “DYKES ON BIKES” is a symbol of pride in the LGBTQ community. After a second rejection, with help from the National Center for Lesbian Rights, we submitted extensive documentation from activists, community leaders, and scholars from across the country, demonstrating that the LGBTQ community considers the name “DYKES ON BIKES” to be a positive, empowering and affirming term. Now, the Trademark Office is claiming that the term “dyke” is “vulgar.”
“What is striking is that USPTO failed to apply the correct legal standard for this case,” said Pablo Manga, associate attorney at Brooke Oliver Law Group. “The USPTO is supposed to consider whether a substantial composite of the LGBTQ community would consider ‘Dyke’ disparaging as it is used in ‘DYKES ON BIKES’ in Pride celebrations. Instead, the USPTO claims to be protecting the public at large, without regard to the views of the LGBTQ community.”
As part of their submissions to the USPTO, Oliver and the National Center for Lesbian Rights submitted more than two dozen statements from distinguished academics and scholars, nationally recognized linguists and psychologists, and long-time activists about how the word “dyke” has evolved over the past 40 years to become a term of pride and empowerment when used by lesbians to describe themselves.
“Dyke is widely understood in the LGBTQ community to mean a proud lesbian publicly demonstrating her identity and publicly celebrating her identity,” said Shannon Minter, NCLR Legal Director, “It is our belief that the Trademark Office has ruled incorrectly and we intend to take every possible step to insure that the reputation of a vital community organization is protected.”
The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.