October 29, 2012 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Kameny estate trademarks ‘Gay is Good’ slogan
Christopher Dyer, gay news, Washington Blade

Christopher Dyer agreed to the Kameny estate order to cease using ‘Gay is Good’ slogan, responding ‘it wasn’t the intent of Frank to have this phrase trademarked.’ (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The estate of the late gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny has ordered D.C. gay activist Christopher Dyer to stop using Kameny’s nationally recognized “Gay is Good” slogan as part of the name of an LGBT rights website that Dyer launched on Oct. 11.

Frank Kameny, gay news, Washington Blade

Pioneering gay rights activist, Frank Kameny, who coined ‘Gay is Good,’ died on Oct. 11, 2011, which happened to be National Coming Out Day. (Washington Blade photo by Doug Hinckle)

D.C. attorney Glen Ackerman, who represents the Kameny estate on behalf of Timothy Clark, Kameny’s heir, contacted Dyer by email on Monday informing him that the estate obtained a trademark for the “Gay is Good” slogan.

Dyer forwarded to the Washington Blade an email exchange between him and Ackerman discussing what Dyer said were his plans for using the title, “Gay is Good, Make LGBT Great” for a newly created Facebook page. He states on the Facebook page that the site is intended to serve as “a page that highlights individuals who are doing work to make the lives of LGBT people great.”

Dyer told Ackerman in an email that his Facebook page would not be using the “Gay is Good” phrase for commercial profit and gain.

“The executor of the estate has not made a decision regarding how to best utilize the trademark,” Ackerman replied in an email to Dyer. “As such, it is imperative that you cease using the phrase immediately. It is not relevant that you are not using the phrase for commercial profit or gain. The estate will enforce its trademark rights.”

Replied Dyer, the former head of the city’s Office of GLBT Affairs, “Ok. I will cease from this point forward… On a personal note, I am frankly disgusted that the estate took this action. It wasn’t the intent of Frank to have this phrase trademarked.”

Ackerman told the Blade that Dyer never followed up on an invitation to make an appointment with Ackerman to discuss Dyer’s interest in using the “Gay is Good” slogan.

“This slogan that Frank Kameny coined in 1968 is his intellectual property,” Ackerman said. “Frank owns it. It is historical. We are protecting it so that it will always remain connected to Frank, not Christopher Dyer, not other people, but to Frank.”

Ackerman said the estate declares in its application for the trademark that the objective of the trademark is to ensure that the slogan is always used as intended by Kameny – to promote LGBT equality in a dignified and respectful manner.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

16 Comments
  • The registration submission is only the beginning of the trademarking process. According to USPTO, the phrase was submitted for registration in July 2012. Normally trademarking takes a year and the next step in the process is the advertising of the registration in the Federal Register for public opposition to the registration. It may be now or soon be at the public opposition stage. After creating the slogan in the summer of 1968, Dr. Kameny gave the slogan to the North American Council of Homophile Organizations at their 1968 convention and NACHO then adopted the slogan on behalf of the queer activist movement.

  • I too am disgusted by Mr. Ackerman's actions. It smacks of petty behvaior and outright attempt to make as much money for Mr. Ackerman in the guise of "protecting" Dr. Kameny's estate. Is the Washington Blade going to, again, make a public disclosure of its' association with Mr. Ackerman?
    In the meantime, we need to start a public outcry against this attempt to grab what has become, essentially, a fair use issue-the is a rallying cry for the LGBT community.

  • David da Silva Cornell

    Like Dyer, I’m disgusted by this. The slogan isn’t about Kameny or Dyer or anyone else individually — it’s about all gay folks collectively. Had Kameny intended to trademark it, he could certainly have done so during his long and productive lifetime — but he didn’t. For his estate now to do so, rather than recognize it as being in the public domain — runs counter to what seem to me to be his clear intent that he didn’t own that slogan but rather *we all* own it.

  • This is ridiculous. If Kameny ever thought he had a right to "trademark" the words "Gay is Good" he had every opportunity to do so. Either he never considered doing this (likely), or felt the idea was shouldn't be carried out for one reason of another. I have not been impressed by the articles I've read to date about the people handling Kameny's estate. This is sort of clownish.

  • I seriously don’t believe Kameny wanted this to happen, it pretty much goes against everything he believed in. For his ‘estate’ and Ackerman to do this smacks, right in the face, every LGBTQ American. I am frankly disgusted.

  • The process of trademarking anything takes time. As Mark Meinke pointed out, there is a process that must be followed before anything is officially accomplised. Saying this, the “Gay is Good” phrase is not offically trademarked yet, and therefore can still be used by anyone without fear of legal actions.

    Please, please continue to voice one’s opinion.

  • Having lived in Frank’s basement apartment in the 1970s, I got to know him pretty well and I too am appalled at this action to trademark “Gay is Good.” Frankly, Frank would be on the side of representing those who wish this phrase to belong to the entire Gay community. The fact that this term has been trademarked serves to remind me that Gay is not “always” good!

  • This is quite ridiculous! Mr Ackerman is only interested in being able to commercialize for profit the slogan for his own gains which from what I have read about the late Mr Kamney goes against his intent. Mr Kamney offered the slogan up out of his intellectual thinking for a greater cause, the fight for equality. This phrase has become an icon, a war cry and is part of the LGBT community now and therefore should be considered public domain. It is people like Ackerman who taint the good deeds of people like Mr Kamney, and he is supposed to be looking out for his legacy. I seriously don't believe Mr Kamney would have had an issue with Mr Dyer using the phrase in a campaign to highlight those who work to improve the lives of the LGBT community for no commercial or profit gain. This actually goes right along with the reason Mr Kamney originally coined the phrase, to improve the lives of the LGBT community through equality so it is really a slap in the face of the late Mr Kamney to create this circus in his "honor" (remind me to leave no estate to be managed by someone in my honor). I suppose for every phrase I coin and choose not to trademark because it was for the good of others, I better start establishing legal documentation to keep misguided legacy bearers from manipulating the goodness of the phrase.

  • I hope this legal circus inspires everyone in our community to have a proper Will drawn and make their wishes clear before they are gone! As an estate planning attorney myself, I see too many of these sad cases…when its too late.

  • Gay is good. Sue me.

  • I agree with the above comments, this just shows again people really become petty when folks die. A educated leader like Dr. Kameny had the opportunity to trademark this slogan if that was his wish for over 50 years he used this term.

  • Joel Tobin-Causey

    Wow Tim Kameny you should be ashamed of yourself for doing exactly what Frank wouldn't ever do.

  • Should the estate of the late Harvey Milk seek a copy right so no one can say “Come out, come out wherever you are!”

  • I’m not a lawyer, but once again, I can’t help but feel that there is more to this story than meets the eye. Something is missing. There was obviously a longstanding, close relationship between our national LGBT rights hero, Frank Kameny and a young man– a familial relationship, which after all, most local LGBT people never knew of. Maybe not always in death– but in life, don’t we have to respect any person’s wishes for privacy?

    There has also been a lot of money raised in the name of Frank Kameny. Do we know who raised that money? Or how it was spent?

    Also, it seems to me more than a little presumptuous for Chris Dyer or anyone else to pronounce with certainty how Kameny wanted the term “Gay is Good” to be used and protected. Did Kameny give Dyer a competing will? Is there some written Kameny document Dyer or anyone else can point to that suggests Kameny’s heir is being reckless with Kameny’s last wishes?

    BTW, if *ANYONE* can use Kameny’s historic LGBT slogan for anything, why can’t it be used by Glenn Beck to stage a DC rally for ‘happy’ straight people who vehemently oppose marriage equality? If we google or bing “gay is good” what’s to keep a homophobic hate site from using it? Or a porn site, for that matter?

    There are lots of good reasons trademark and intellectual property protections exist.

    I enjoy a good lawyer joke as well as anyone. But before we start bashing lawyers trying to protect Frank Kameny’s wishes– as recorded by Frank Kameny himself (a LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT, wasn’t it?)– we need to see more facts.

  • Glen Ackerman is an honorable person and one of our city’s great LGBT attorneys. Your wholly unfounded personal attack on Glen Ackerman’s integrity is flatly false and outrageous.

    Ackerman is doing exactly what a good lawyer should– zealously defending the rights and wishes of Frank Kameny and protecting Frank Kameny’s estate from self-appointed, potentially self-serving exploiters of Kameny’s legacy.

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