Kentucky Colonels Defending the First Amendment
Filing a Lawsuit Does Not Demonstrate Goodwill
On February 20th, the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels, Inc. (HOKC) filed a lawsuit against us for defamation, trademark infringement and cybersquatting following our legal incorporation in Kentucky through a sponsoring organization, Ecology Crossroads, in an effort to stop us from establishing ourselves as a benevolent fraternal association and civil society made up of Kentucky colonels to promote online membership services to other Kentucky colonels.
The HOKC filed the lawsuit after we revealed some points of contention and differing critical views Kentucky colonels that use the social media had voiced about the requirement of making donations to exercise their privilege to nominate other colonels and explained to Kentucky colonels that they were not real members and had no voting privileges with the charitable Honorable Order. The HOKC never refuted any of the claims or criticism we made publicly, but they did contact the Governor Andy Beshear after learning that our organization was legally established, and that we had contacted the governor's office to raise the bar by requiring written nominations while addressing other issues that concerned our members.
Great Seal of the United States of America
The HOKC did attack our organization online using their Facebook page and Twitter account after learning about our article making insinuations, planting seeds of doubt, and attacking the straw man as they call it in philosophical debate terms, making doubius statements about our organization, our members, and parent organization which was legally reinstated under Kentucky law. Their next move was to file a new commercial trademark for associations with the US government on February 17th, followed by their lawsuit requesting a temporary restraining order, an injunction, and a verified civil complaint alleging that we have used their trademark to conduct business and engage in commercial activity (which we have not).
The lawsuit and the allegations were the HOKC's shrewd attempt to defray and divert attention from the issues at hand, which we raised, in an effort to cripple the organization that we were starting as a fraternal civil society. Despite the fact that what were were doing was good for Kentucky colonels by providing them with a voice, their action can potentially mute Kentucky colonels which they depend on for their funding. Once we registered our organization in Frankfort it came to be in their immediate reach, their false claims are simply an attempt to eliminate us as possible competition, but really we were never competing with them in the first place, our goals are completely different.
We are all Kentucky colonels with letters patent, Kentucky colonels existed before the Honorable Order was formed and is an interest that exists in the public domain denoted by the acting Governor. As stated by the Honorable Order themselves, "we are a charity and participation with our organization is voluntary." Their lawsuit has no basis and is classified as a menace lawsuit, it is meant to cause harm to our organization, and to dominate a term, which does not belong exclusively to them, it belongs to those who have been awarded the honorable title of Kentucky Colonel.
Our Defense, the First Amendment of the US Constitution
We were simply addressing our grievances to government, exercising our freedom of speech, the right to assemble, and freedom of the press; before we were totally overwhelmed with nearly a nearly 700 page lawsuit and a negatively connotated press release they made to their key media contacts which reverberated spurious allegations in their version of events without ever interviewing us, the "Kentucky colonels" ourselves or checking the facts alleged in the lawsuit. It was a complete snowjob to make it appear that we are engaged in illegal and immoral conduct. Their press release even baffled most news reporters into writing shoddy journalism as demonstrated in the Herald-Leader and Courier-Journal, which were presented lacking objectivity and research, referring to it as a copyright case, which is not even an issue of the lawsuit. Only one reporter out of the many who heard about it or received the HOKC's press release got it right and showed some objectivity interviewing both sides, Louisville Business First.
In reality what they have done in their ruthless counterpoint attack against us was alienate older Kentucky colonels in general from our organization, as well as from their own, who prefer not to comment or become involved with a legal battle or look deep enough to take sides and understand the facts. The sad part is that as many of them support our organization for the social media and membership services we have provided in Facebook, also support the HOKC's efforts in Kentucky as a charity. This includes most of our own members who routinely support their Good Works program. The lawsuit has given everyone a bad taste in their mouth and is creating division where unity once existed.
Despite this, the few that actually visit our website quickly come to understand the facts behind the matter and show us their support by sharing our webpage, which has been shared over 350 times in the past 2 weeks since the lawsuit began.
We have made now five attempts to amicably settle the matter, most in vain, because they know the lawsuit will never be proven and they know we lack funding.In their 700 pages they submitted to the court, there are no instances of any evidence that we have ever sold barbecue sauce, t-shirts or cigars, which they have trademarked with "KENTUCKY COLONELS" as a brand, nor have we ever indicated that we were affiliated with them, everything we say is quite the opposite on all of our pages. All of our publications have been aimed at distinguishing the differences between our organizations and demonstrate these differences.
Now they may be shooting themselves in the foot by continuing the lawsuit after collaborating with the new governor to remove the restriction of requiring donors to activate their 'so-called member' status before a Kentucky colonel could nominate another as a colonel. Now anyone can nominate someone to become one and it is not a privilege exclusive to colonels anymore. Soon everyone may become a Kentucky colonel.
Now Anyone can Nominate a Kentucky Colonel?
Their most recent collaboration with the head-of-state has removed the most unique privilege that colonels had since the beginning, of being the only ones who could nominate new colonels, now anyone can make recommendations. This will definitely increase the number of Kentucky colonels dramatically, boost the charitable funding base HOKC, augment their mailing list, increment license plate sales for the state, and show a much higher income with increased sales from their online store. So what happened to the honorable order?
Many Kentucky colonels that hold the award in high regard are somewhat upset and disappointed about the new policy, mostly because they are not the exclusive nominators anymore, but also because they fear that there will be too many people receiving the title of Kentucky Colonel. Once it becomes more commonplace the many benefits colonels gained from being distinguished with the noteworthy honor which were due from the respect and admiration associated with getting the award in the first place will naturally be diminished and watered down over time.
With everyone becoming a Kentucky colonel, the only benefits under the new system that will be permitted is the opportunity to purchase trademarked memorabilia from the Kentucky Colonels Store, say you are one, and will have the opportunity to donate to their charity, so that they can give money in your name to others in recognition of your Kentucky colonelcy. Colonels would get more recognition on their own in their own communities for this. It sure does seem that over time at the hands of the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels that the honor has become much less honorable (or at least less distinguished) in their motives to make more and more money from something that was so well-respected in Kentucky's tradition and history, since the time they borrowed it in 1932.
It is our understanding that during the last 3 weeks, that over 4,000 new Kentucky colonels have been recommended, if this number is correct the new Governor will be making as many as 75,000 new Kentucky colonels in 2020. In essence this will double the number of Kentucky colonels already in existence according to the HOKC. Over the years ahead, during this administration that number can rise to almost 500,000 or more before 2025, while this may be great for Kentucky it is not so great for the distinction of the award as one that will be as noteworthy as it once was.
A New Headquarters for the HOKC or the Colonels?
As of last week the HOKC opened a new headquarters, a gala event that was not even attended by their Commander-in-Chief, Governor Andy Beshear. To date they have not addressed the critical points we have raised in our previous editorial which revealed that the HOKC has no members, that donors have no influence in their organization nor any of the counter allegations we presented in our defense pleadings to the court, have been responded to, which are now a matter of the public record. It is very obvious that the HOKC is covering things up and not nearly as transparent as people would like to believe, this lawsuit is just an attempt to distort the facts, based on people's willingness to ignore them.
So now unless we can raise funds to defend ourselves against the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels trumped up offensive stance, find an attorney to take our case pro-bono, lift the restraining order against us, and mount a sustainable resistance against the newest changes the honorable title of Kentucky Colonel will become a commonplace award and endangered as an award of great merit. The story of how we became Kentucky colonels will become another 'one of those things' lost to time and history.
To help us defend the lawsuit you can make a donation to our legal defense fund against the HOKC or help us find an attorney willing to take the case pro bono or one willing to file a counterclaim to recover damages they have incurred against us in bringing this case. Our email and more details can be found on our website at the Kentucky Colonel Foundation. Whether we win, lose, or are forced to default on this lawsuit, we will remain and continue to defend our First Amendment Rights under the US Constitution as Kentucky colonels and US citizens.
Case Note Facts:
On February 25th, a Judge of the US District Court of the Western District of Kentucky placed a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) for 14 days against us based on the plaintiff stating that they were being harmed by our organization through causing confusion using their trademark.
On February 27th, we withdrew our Assumed Name Corporation Registration from the Secretary of State, in Frankfort and offered to settle the case amicably with the plaintiff, changing our name from Kentucky Colonels International to Kentucky Colonel Foundation. (There are more than 12 other organizations that use the term "Kentucky Colonels" not related to the plaintiff, set up for fraternal purposes such as our own.)
On March 04th, an hearing was scheduled for the Injunction where we entered our appearance and pleading for the hearing. The Judge recused himself from the case for reassignment to another Judge.
On March 09th, the plaintiff moved the court to extend the TRO until the 23rd of March. and we made a new attempt to settle the lawsuit with the Honorable Order.
The Order states:
"Pursuant to Rule 65(b), Defendants are TEMPORARILY ENJOINED and RESTRAINED from, directly or indirectly, whether alone or in concert with employees, affiliates, or others:
a.) using the Kentucky Colonels Mark, or any mark that is confusingly similar to the Kentucky Colonels Mark, including but not limited to Kentucky Colonels International, on or in connection with the sale of any goods or services and the solicitation of charitable donations.
b.) using the Kentucky Colonels Mark, or any mark that is confusingly similar to the Kentucky Colonels Mark, including but not limited to Kentucky Colonels International, in such a way as is likely to cause consumers to be confused, mistaken, or deceived into believing that HOKC has sponsored, approved, licensed or is in any way affiliated with Defendants.Those making a donation to us should be clear that we are not soliciting charitable donations nor is this article written to confuse anyone reading it. All donations made will be used in our legal defense, to acquire an attorney, or defend this action publicly, donations are not tax-deductible nor are they for charitable purposes.