updated 10/26/2009 8:12:38 PM ET 2009-10-27T00:12:38

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce filed a civil complaint on Monday against members of a liberal activist group who staged a news conference to falsely announce that the 3 million-member business federation had reversed its stance on climate change legislation.

"The defendants are not merry pranksters tweaking the establishment," said Steven Law, general counsel for the chamber. "Instead, they deliberately broke the law in order to further commercial interest in their books, movies and other merchandise."

The chamber said it filed the complaint in U.S. District Court in Washington to protect its trademark and other intellectual property from unlawful use by members of the group known as Yes Men and others involved in the group's commercial enterprises. The activists misappropriated the chamber's logo, created a fraudulent Web site and falsely claimed to be speaking as the chamber under the group's copyright, the chamber said in a statement.

As part of its hoax on Oct. 19, Yes Men announced at the National Press Club that the chamber would stop lobbying against the Senate's 800-page climate bill. Reuters moved a story based on the false press release, and both CNBC and Fox Business Network reported it — with the anchors correcting themselves mid-story upon learning it was false.

The chamber has taken heat from some of its members because of its position against the climate bill.

Some companies have defected from the group, including Apple Inc., Exelon Corp., Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and the Public Service Co. of New Mexico.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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