Patrick Henry College Chancellor Michael Farris Threatens to Sue QueerPHC

Update, Dec. 3, 5:55 p.m.: 

Michael Farris withdraws his threat to sue QueerPHC.

Original post: 

Over the weekend, we received this message on our Facebook page:

farris2

For those who can’t load the screenshot jpeg above, the message is from Michael Farris’ official Facebook page, and it reads:

“This page is in violation of our copyright of the name Patrick Henry College. You are hereby notified that you must remove this page at once. On Monday we will began [sic] the legal steps to seek removal from Facebook and from the courts if necessary. In this process of this matter we can seek discovery from Facebook to learn your identity and seek damages from you as permitted by law. The best thing for all concerned is for you to simply remove this page.

Find another way to communicate your message without using the term ‘Patrick Henry College’ in any manner.”

There’s not much to add, except that our message is intrinsically tied to the name Patrick Henry College. We are students of Patrick Henry College. We share about our experiences at Patrick Henry College. We reach out to other students at Patrick Henry College. The demand that we stop using the school’s name is really a thinly disguised demand that we shut up.

20 thoughts on “Patrick Henry College Chancellor Michael Farris Threatens to Sue QueerPHC

  1. What a quack! You’d think that, as a self-proclaimed constitutional lawyer, Mr. Farris would know the difference between copyright and trademark.

    It’s like he googled “law” and chose three random words — copyright, discovery, and damages – that he thought he could throw together in a way that sounds scary and that disguises what is otherwise just blatant bigotry.

  2. How about substituting “that weird little right-wingnut college in Purcellville, Va.” for every current mention of you-know-what.

    • Ya, Mr. Farris is confusing copyright and trademark. But he has no legitimate trademark claim here either. The public is allowed nominative or descriptive use of a trademark when it’s necessary to identify what they’re discussing. In other words, the law doesn’t require them to say “what it’s like being gay at the-college-that-shall-not-be-named.” And then there’s also that other little issue called the First Amendment.

      Moreover, while a trademark doesn’t have to be registered to be protected by law, Farris would have difficulty arguing that the school has sought to protect its name from use by others, since, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the trademark on “Patrick Henry College” is “dead” since it was “abandoned” in 2000: “Abandoned because the applicant failed to respond to an Office action.”

      • I’m kind of fond of “what it’s like being gay at the-college-that-shall-not-be-named.” I do actually know several students/alumni that talk about PHC that way.

  3. Unlike copyright, which does not support an ability to sue without registration, an institution can have trademark rights, assertable under section 43 of the Lanham Act, even if it has never registered its mark allowing it to proceed under section 32 of the Act. But Farris’ claim under either provision easily qualfies as absurd. No likelihood of confusion, nominative fair use, First Amendment — how does the law hate thee? Let me count the ways.

  4. Pingback: PHC’s Mike Farris reduced to making empty threats against LGBT student group |

  5. I need to ask if Mr. Farris ever took an English class in high school. It is hard to take someone seriously who claims to be a Constitutional Lawyer yet has limited grasp on the English language.

    Next, does Mr. Farris know the term prima facie. I know, it is difficult to expect someone who claims English as a primary language and cannot master English to understand Latin. However anyone who has taken basic logic or debate – let alone someone who supposedly has a law degree ought to know that term.

    Good grief… Learn to communicate before you threaten!

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  8. I have a feeling that this wing-nut really believed that this students would be so scared and so ignorant of the law that they would run and close the site on his say so. Else, he has just shown the world that he has a very sketchy knowledge of the law and a tenuous relationship with reality. But I guess we already knew of the latter. Unbelievable.

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