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‘Honey Badger’ Article Wins Trademark Law Award for CWSL Student

Sara Gold

California Western third-year student Sara Gold has won the 2019 Ladas Memorial Award from the International Trademark Association.

Established in memory of distinguished practitioner and author Stephen P. Ladas, the awards are presented annually to two student winners and one professional (attorney) for papers on trademark law or a matter that directly relates to or affects trademarks.

Joining Gold as the other winner in the student award category was Doori Song of Notre Dame Law School. The professional category winner was Professor Mark Lemley of Stanford Law School.

“I am extremely honored to be recognized alongside such distinguished scholars in the intellectual property field,” said Gold.

Titled Honey Badger Don’t Care, but the Legal Community Does, Gold’s winning article examines the conflict between trademark protection, which confers the exclusive right to a phrase, and free speech principles, which allow the public to refer to trademarked phrases within artistic expression. Gold discusses Gordon v. Drape Creative, Inc., a case involving the trademark “Honey Badger Don’t Care” from the viral YouTube video that has received over 90 million views since it was posted in 2011.

Christopher Gordon, the creator of the YouTube video, owns the “Honey Badger Don’t Care” trademark. He sued a greeting card company that was using his trademark on greeting cards without his permission. The defendants claimed that the greeting cards were “artistic” enough to justify the trademark use under First Amendment free speech. The lower court agreed with the defendants and dismissed Gordon’s lawsuit, but on appeal, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for trial on the issue of whether the greeting cards fall within the artistic use exception to trademark infringement.

“I picked this topic because it highlights the difficulty of balancing free speech against exclusive intellectual property rights, both of which are important to promote,” said Gold.

Gold’s article argues that sending the Honey Badger case to trial, and not dismissing it outright on First Amendment grounds, represents the recognition that free speech should not always outweigh intellectual property interests.

The Ladas win is Gold’s second national competition award. She won the IDEA Student Writing Competition in 2018. Gold is Senior Editor of the California Western Law Review and Editor-in-Chief of The Commentary, California Western’s online newspaper. She will graduate in April 2019 and plans to practice intellectual property law in the San Diego area.

To read Sara Gold’s winning article Honey Badger Don’t Care, but the Legal Community Does, visit (Sara Gold Ladas Memorial Award).