rainbow-flagThere’s a lawsuit in New York City right now that asks the question, “Can one group own Gay Pride?”

Heritage of Pride, Inc., is a nonprofit organization in New York responsible for organizing the city’s annual Gay Pride Parade. In recent years, Heritage has expanded its reach to stage multiple events (dances, etc.) during June.

But Heritage isn’t, of course, the only group that organizes Pride events; gay promoters Brandon Voss and Jake Resnicow have been putting on Pride Month events since 2009. In 2011, Heritage filed a trademark claim to the phrase “NYC Pride,” and is now trying to enjoin Voss and Resnicow from using that term.

Obviously, you cannot trademark the concept of “Pride.” But what about the name? Are they inseparable?

It’s an interesting conundrum. Both “Disney World Gay Days” and “Gay Days Orlando” are competing groups that sponsor events every June. But neither owns outright the words “Gay Day.” Can one company own “NYC Pride”? Don’t we all kind of own it, as the Stonewall Riots were in New York and spawn the modern gay rights movement? Could Voss et al. get around it by calling their events “Pride NYC” of “NY Pride”? Should any corporation be able to control the word Pride in any way — isn’t it an expression, not a piece of property?