24
Sep/07

Separation of Church and Brand?


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The Seattle Trademark Lawyer has a post on Kerusso, a seller of Christian-themed t-shirts. Several of its reported best-sellers are based on well-known trademarks. STL points to two Ninth Circuit cases, the Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P. v. Penguin Books USA, Inc., 109 F.3d 1394, 1405 (9th Cir. 1997), and the Barbie Girl case, Mattel, Inc. v. MCA Records, Inc., 296 F.3d 894, 901 (9th Cir. 2002), to conclude that these are likely infirnging uses. To put it simply, the shirt uses the Deere logo (for example) not to mock Deere but to get attention, and therefore is not a permissible parody.
However, to refer out loud to the elephant in the room, a trademark owner protesting such a usage runs the risk of being seen as anti-First Amendment and anti-religious expression. This can be handled in part by emphasizing that Jesus Christ is not a named party to an infringement suit but Kerusso Activewear, Incorporated, would be.

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