DPS drops bid to trademark students’ “Know Justice, Know Peace” podcast

Denver Public Schools is backing down from a trademark dispute with a group of current and former Black students who created a podcast about racial injustice called “Know Justice, Know Peace” in the wake of the George Floyd murder.

The students at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Early College who created the podcast in 2020 will get to claim the trademark and continue making the podcast under that name, while DPS will create a new podcast of its own.

A lawyer for DPS previously argued that because the podcast was made with district equipment and the guidance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Early College’s former principal, the district should own the rights to the production.

DPS filed two federal and trademark applications and one in Colorado for “Know Justice, Know Peace” in August. The current and former students — Alana Mitchell, Jenelle Nangah and two minors who were not named — sued DPS in federal court in September, alleging the district tried to trademark and “steal” the students’ brand name.

On Friday, DPS filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

“This is a very beautiful story of the students not letting somebody trample on them and even a greater lesson for the community that stands up, because the community’s voice here… is the real reason why DPS realized it doesn’t have anybody in its corner for this one,” said Jeffrey Kass, an attorney for the students.

When word got out about DPS applying for the trademark, Kass said community leaders and people from across the country wrote to the Denver school district in outrage.

Will Jones, a spokesman for DPS, said the district is withdrawing its state and federal trademark patent applications to allow the students to file for and receive rights to the intellectual property.

The students, Kass said, plan on continuing the “Know Justice, Know Peace” podcast.

“From the beginning, we have repeatedly stated that our efforts were about protecting this important educational tool for our scholars. Our concern has never been with any of our students,” Jones wrote in a statement, adding that the district had been worried a former MLK Early College employee who helped the students with the podcast would take the trademark.

Kass said that was not an issue.

“Now that these young ladies are in a position to actually own this intellectual property on their own, we are thrilled that it will soon be theirs,” Jones wrote. “We will also continue to engage in restorative justice conversations about this entire matter.”

The Black Student Alliance at the school announced the podcast — which tackles racial justice issues — on Juneteenth in 2020, and it premiered on July 4, 2020. The podcast became a quick hit, drawing national media attention.

Jones said the work the students started will live on in DPS under a new name and expand throughout the district.

“The name of this podcast will change, but the mission of speaking out about racial injustice will remain the same,” Jones said.

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