CLEVELAND, Ohio – Gubernatorial candidate Tim Hagan can keep using Internet ads featuring Gov. Bob Taft's head on a duck's body, a federal judge ruled Tuesday, dismissing objections by AFLAC insurance.
AFLAC had complained that the duck in Hagan's Web ads looks too much like the one in AFLAC's commercials, which feature a duck quacking the company name. But U.S. District Judge Kathleen O'Malley refused to block the ads, saying they represent protected political speech.
Hagan, a Democrat, and Taft, a Republican, will face off in the Nov. 5 election.
AFLAC had asked for a temporary restraining order forcing Hagan's campaign to remove the ads from the campaign Web site, www.taftquack.com. In the ads, a duck with Taft's face shouts "Taftquack'' in response to Taft's campaign commercials.
David Stewart, a lawyer for the company, told O'Malley the "Taftquack'' duck could lead consumers to believe AFLAC was endorsing the Hagan campaign.
O'Malley agreed there is a danger that political campaigns will use successful commercial trademarks that companies have spent time and money developing. But she said the First Amendment still falls on Hagan's side.
"There simply are no commercial purposes that can be found in the particular ads at issue,'' O'Malley said.
AFLAC is still seeking a permanent injunction to block the ads. O'Malley scheduled an Oct. 10 hearing on that request.
Taft spokesman Orest Holubec said the governor's campaign is not involved in the case.