A liberal political action committee says it has registered for the trademark rights for the logo of Shooters Grill, the restaurant owned by U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, and attempted to sell it as a nonfungible token, or NFT.
NFTs are digital products that are sold online and represent tangible and intangible items, such as videos, photos or music. Purchasing an NFT means the buyer has verifiable ownership of the original item.
In response, Boebert has sent two cease-and-desist letters to Rural Colorado United, one claiming the PAC’s registration of the logo was fraudulent and demanding the PAC stop using the logo in any capacity; the other demanding the listing of the logo as an NFT be taken down.
“Only Shooters Grill has rights to the Shooters Grill logo,” said Benjamin Stout, Boebert’s press secretary, in an email to The Durango Herald. “Shooters’ legal counsel will be taking appropriate actions as needed to put a stop to yet another frivolous attack from what appears to be a group of far-left political hacks.”
Rural Colorado United Chairman George Autobee said he and other members of the PAC spoke with their own legal counsel, and they are not worried about the cease-and-desist letters. The PAC plans to continue its operations as usual and “keep the pressure” on Boebert. The PAC said it bought the rights to the logo after Boebert failed to renew the registration for it.
“It doesn’t look like there's gonna be any problem on our side,” Autobee said. “So, we’re just going to go straight forward.”
The logo was up for auction for 10 days as an NFT on Open Sea, an internet marketplace for digital products. No one bought the NFT, but it was viewed more than 4,000 times on the website.
The purpose of selling the logo was not to make any money for Rural Colorado United; rather, it was to “poke fun” at the congresswoman, said Nathan Steele, a volunteer with Rural Colorado United.
“And also to call attention to the fact that this is indicative of the way she does everything,” Steele said.
Steele is identified in Boebert’s cease-and-desist letters as the person “responsible for the fraudulent registration” of the logo. He said he paid for the trademark registration as an extension of Rural Colorado United using the PAC’s money.
William Groh, a lawyer who practices trademark law with Thomas P. Howard LLC in Louisville, Colorado, said he could not comment about the specifics of the case, but that registering to renew a logo for a trademark “in bad faith” or with negative intentions is illegal in Colorado and does not give an individual the rights to a trademark.
“If they registered it in bad faith, then any of the rights would be subject to cancellation,” Groh said. “The other issue, though, that’s a little bit more important here is, if somebody is claiming to have the right to sell something and they don’t have the right to do it or they obtained it fraudulently and they're trying to sell it to somebody else, that raises more serious potential issues.”
Groh said that sending cease-and-desist letters is “standard” in cases of trademark infringement.
Rural Colorado United Chairwoman Brianna Buentello said Boebert’s failure to renew the registration for her logo is symbolic of how the congresswoman has fallen short in her work as a representative for Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District.
“She can’t do things like handle our health care situation, get some money for our public schools, get us some earmarks for some transportation money ... or even renew the rights to her own business,” Buentello said. “It’s embarrassing. I mean, she’s patently unfit for this office.”
Rural Colorado United was started in 2018 after Boebert’s primary win. Thinking Boebert would be an unfit representative for Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, the organization began raising money and putting out advertisements to sway people from voting for Boebert in the general election.
The PAC is run by Buentello, a former District 47 representative for the Colorado House of Representatives, as chairwoman, and Autobee, a local veteran of the U.S. Marines, as chairman. It also has a network of more than 100 volunteers throughout the district.
“If you can’t get elected to Congress without threatening somebody else, maybe you don’t have anything to offer,” Autobee said in a Rural Colorado United advertisement about Boebert.
Buentello said Rural Colorado United seeks to highlight how Boebert is failing her district and engaging in “shady business dealings.”
Rural Colorado United has not announced that it supports any candidate as primary elections draw near, but the organization plans to turn its attention to fundraising and organizing grassroots efforts. Buentello said she hopes Rural Colorado United’s efforts inspire thoughtful civic engagement in future elections.
“This is a really good opportunity for people to realize how tremendously impactful our federal government representation is,” Buentello said.
Grace George is an intern for The Durango Herald and The Journal in Cortez and a student at American University in Washington, D.C.