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Protecting Commercial Speech

Vugo, Inc. v. City of New York

Case Status

Date Filed

January 23, 2020

Last Step

Petition for certiorari denied.

Next Step

Case Overview

Vugo is a Minnesota-based tech company whose service allows vehicles hailed through ride-sharing apps such as Uber and Lyft to show passengers entertainment and advertising on a tablet screen. Vugo’s tablets don’t just blare a few clips and commercials on a loop like the video screens seen in taxicabs. Passengers can watch YouTube videos, and the ads can be interactive and offer suggestions and discounts based on where someone is headed.

Unfortunately, Vugo can’t do business in the country’s biggest market, New York City, because the city has banned commercial advertising (but not non-commercial advertising) inside vehicles–except taxis, which are allowed to show those video ads.

Vugo sued to challenge New York’s rules for violating the company’s First Amendment rights. Unfortunately, a federal appellate court upheld the scheme in 2019, citing U.S. Supreme Court cases that have said that commercial speech isn’t entitled to as much First Amendment protection as other types of speech.

Now Vugo is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear its case. An amicus brief the Goldwater Institute and the Cato Institute filed in support of Vugo’s petition explains why people should have the same First Amendment rights when they speak about commerce that they have when they speak about anything else.

Case Documents

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