It is to be recalled that, in July 2007, the Shanee Group of OLF took the TA-OLF group to a Minnesota court over the use of the OLF name, logo and flag. The lawsuit alleged that TA-OLF violated “Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act” and that it interfered with the Shanee Group’s “prospective economic advantage” by using the OLF name, logo and flag - (Read Here).
In August 2007, after two court appearances, the court dismissed the Shanee lawsuit without prejudice. In other words, while the Shanee case was dismissed for the time being, they were allowed to re-file if they so wished.
Undeterred by the dismissal and bent on winning the case, the Shanee Group re-filled and launched a second lawsuit over the same issue in September of the same year. After 14 months in the court system and after $50,000.00 (by a conservative estimate) of Oromo hard earned money was squandered on both sides to prosecute and defend this ridiculous charge, the court decided in favor of the defendant and awarded TA-OLF cost and disbursements which the Shanee Group was forced to pay up.
In dismissing the case in November 2008, the judge observed:
“The OLF began in Ethiopia in 1973 with the objective of establishing an independent [state of] Oromia for the Oromo people. Some individual Defendants have been members of the OLF since its inception in 1973. Beginning in 1999 and through approximately 2001, the OLF members began disputing the methods of accomplishing their mission. In 2001, the [Plaintiff or the Asmara Group] OLF began supporting the policy of recognizing the Ethiopian government. There were members who did not agree with this policy. The Plaintiffs continued operating under the name OLF in Minnesota (“Plaintiff OLF”). The Defendants rejected the authority of the [Plaintiff or the Asmara Group] OLF, but also continued operating under the name OLF in Minnesota (“Defendant OLF”)” - (Read Here).
In regards to the flag under dispute, the Shanee complaint asked TA-OLF to cease using the flag. However, Shanee members summoned for deposition (question and answer sessions between a possible witness and attorney of opposing side) all asserted that the flag is a national symbol and not just OLF’s which prompted the judge to observe:
“The OLF uses a flag. It is disputed whether the symbol on the flag was created for, and solely represents, the OLF or whether it is a symbol used by the Oromo people regardless of their affiliation with the OLF.”
With that, the judge dismissed the case for the second time and ordered Shanee to pay cost and disbursements to TA-OLF.
If you thought this would be the end of this madness, think again.
On Nov. 17, 2008, a mere nine days after losing the case for the second time, the Shanee group applied to the US Patents & Trademarks Office (USPTO) to register the OLF name and logo in the Advertising, Business & Retail Services category - (Read Here).
Having succeeded in registering the OLF logo with the USPTO as Advertising, Business & Retail Services logo in June 2009, Shanee has now put TA-OLF on notice. In a letter written on Dec. 15, 2011 - (Read Here) - Shanee has accused TA-OLF of infringing on Shanee’s copy right and trade mark privileges. The letter asked TA-OLF to desist from further using the OLF “logo, flag and other materials.” Soon after, Shanee also issued a statement today on its web site (Read Here), warning the use of OLF name and logo by any other group but itself would be illegal and immoral thereby threatening lawsuit(s) against TA-OLF and perhaps also the Kemal Gelchu group of OLF.
If history is any guide, and from what we already know about the TA-OLF group, it seems unlikely that they will even dignify this letter with a response much less desisting from using what they consider rightfully belongs to the oromo people and their fallen comrades who paid the ultimate sacrifice with their lives to free their people and realize an independent state of Oromia. Given TA-OLF’s attitude towards the OLF name, flag and logo, it seems inevitable that another (third) round of litigation will be launched by Shanee with the inevitable consequence of squandering tens of thousands Oromo hard earned money on American lawyers once again.
Why would Shanee spend Oromo hard earned money that can be put to a better use, say to take Meles Zenawi to World Court rather than targeting another Oromo group? Or even use the money to maintain their Washington DC office for which they were unable to afford rental fee and therefore downgraded to a smaller office recently? Why not use the money to help our refugee brothers and sisters suffering around the world or our brethren dying of famine in Oromia? While NGOs and benevolent governments feed our starving people, why would an Oromo group (Shanee) purportedly struggling for Oromo freedom waste thousands of dollars on a dispute which will not advance an inch, but retard, the Oromo struggle?
It is no secret that the Oromo camp is fragmented, disunited and disorganized as it is. Nationalist Oromos everywhere are demanding unity based on clarity of purpose for the struggle. Having given up on their leaders, they are beginning to organize grass root Oromo unity movements. For Shanee to threaten a lawsuit at this particular time, after having lost twice before on the same issue – would be to pour gasoline on fire and frustrate the call for unity.
A Call to Action
This blogger continues to appeal to the Shanee Group in general and Obbo Dawud Ibsaa in particular, as he had done during the first and second Shanee Lawsuits, to stop this madness.
Obbo Dawud: What you are engaged in is an inter-Oromo political fight for the hearts and minds of the Oromo people. The Oromo people and them alone can and should render the final verdict as to which group deserves to call itself the OLF or not. Given time, one of you factions will die a natural death from lack of support from the Oromo people or thrive because of it. No amount of positive verdict from a foreign court will earn you Oromo love and support or acceptance from them. In fact, what you are doing is sending the wrong message to the Oromo. And that message seems to be that you lack confidence in the Oromo people’s ability to render this verdict which prompts you to appeal to foreign courts for help. I urge you to reflect on your group’s actions, the adverse reactions it can generate and their overall impact on the Oromo struggle.
This blogger calls on all Oromo compatriots, particularly Shanee members and Oromo elders everywhere, to do everything they can to stop Shanee from wasting money they collect in the name of Oromo struggle on something that will not advance the Oromo struggle one inch.
This blogger explicitly calls on Oromo elders to not turn a blind eye to this madness this time around, as they did in the two previous litigations where they chose to silently watch from the sideline while the Oromo movement was made a laughing stock of the world as a result of Shanee intiated litigations.
OLF Legal Woes
The Asmara Group Lawsuit Dismissed Without Prejudice
Nuro Dedefo Defebds the Asmara group's lawsuit
The Asmara Group of OLF Takes TA-OLF Back to Minnesota Court
Have your say!