Man Uses Trademark Claim to Try to Stop Spike Lee From Using Word “Chiraq”

It wouldn’t be the first time Lee’s “Chiraq” film has been targeted over the word

A man who has filed several trademarks in Illinois for the word “Chiraq” has reportedly sent a letter to Spike Lee’s production company demanding the word not be used in the title of his upcoming film.

Emmett Benjamin told the Chicago Tribune he thought Lee’s film might threaten his work at his temple in Oak Park called the House of Christ Temple Divine.

Benjamin said the charter of the temple outlines a concept of the “Sovereign nation of Chi-raqi” and has used the word on clothing, music and film services as well as on several websites associated with the temple. Benjamin uses both “Chiraq” and “Chiraqi” interchangeably.

It wouldn’t be the first time Lee’s “Chiraq” film has been targeted over the word.

Ald. Will Burns last month asked the Chicago City Council to vote on a measure that would push the state to deny Lee’s company a $3 million tax break for shooting the film in Illinois if he moved forward with the “Chiraq” name.

Burns believes that in this case the slated “Chiraq” title will make it difficult to bring economic development and jobs to the city in the future, and in turn take a negative toll.

Burns is not the only one to express his disapproval of "Chiraq,” the slang term some use to compare America's third-largest city to a war zone because of its violent crime.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel previously said he spoke with Lee and told him that while he does not oppose the film itself, he opposes the title due to its characterization of the city as a war zone.

As for Benjamin’s concerns, it’s unclear if his trademark claims would hold up in court.

Jonathan Masur, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, told the Tribune Benjamin would have to be the first person to use the word and Lee’s film likely has a First Amendment right to use the word.

Lee’s production company could not immediately be reached for comment.

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