A Brief History of the Trademark and its Legality

Questions, answers, and updates about the trademark lawsuit and related issues
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A Brief History of the Trademark and its Legality

Postby Lucan » July 22nd, 2012, 1:49 pm

The history of the trademark is certainly wrought with several curious and interesting occurrences. It is our understanding that Seventh-day Adventist Kinship International was the reason the General Conference acquired the trademark initially; fear of "Gay Seventh-day Adventist Churches."

When the General Conference applied in 1980 and acquired the trademark in 1981, they remained utterly silent during a 5 year period where the trademark could have been contested, had it been known about. In 1986 they took action in 137 different cases of alleged trademark infringement. One of those cases was John Marik, pastor of the "Congregational SDA Church" in Kona, Hawaii.

Marik was the only one of the 137 cases that went to court, and his 11-member congregation lost the suit in 1987. Immediately upon getting that precedent under their belt, the General Conference initiated suit against SDA Kinship International, which case they eventually lost. By 1989 Marik was incarcerated for refusing to comply on similar grounds to those that we claim.

After the Kinship loss the independent ministries lost a large amount of their fear; Vance Ferrell among others published that the trademark was over, that the loss against Kinship meant no more lawsuits, etc. CSDAs were the only ones claiming that the "deadly wound would be healed," as it were.

In 1994, two Seventh-day Adventist members (Stocker and Perry) initiated a lawsuit in the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) to have the trademark cancelled on grounds of it being the name of a religion, and thus generic - again, many of the arguments maintained by the CSDA Church. The case resulted in a 2-1 split. Despite the claims of absolute law being on the Conference's side, the trademark of the name "Seventh-day Adventist" rests upon a single judge's vote. Incidentally, the dissenting judge's opinion agrees entirely with the CSDA position on the legality of the matter. It is not as "cut and dried" legally speaking as some Adventist proponents seem to want to believe.

Now, here is where the plot thickens. When Stocker and Perry did not have the funds to appeal, the Davidians became involved in the case and retained a Florida lawyer to appeal the decision. The commissioner of the USPTO expressed interest in filing an Amicus brief on behalf of Stocker and Perry, arguing that this case did indeed need to be heard on appeals.

For "unknown reasons," the lawyer that was retained failed to submit the appeal on time. He was later disciplined by the Florida Bar Assoc. and refused to answer when we asked him why he did not submit the appeal in a timely fashion. It seemed that some form of foul play was involved.

With that turn of events, the potentially flimsy legal basis of the SDA trademark was solidified once and for all. Since that time judges have declined to address the legality or Constitutionality of the trademark itself. Instead of judging whether the law is a valid one to begin with, they have judged merely on whether the law was violated.

The result has been a snowballing effect; every case decided in this manner adds to the precedent and power of the GC Legal department, so that as in our case, the suits rarely even go to trial before being decided in favor of the Conference. "Who is able to make war against the beast?" indeed.

The TTAB decision may be found at http://ipmall.info/hosted_resources/TTA ... _17554.asp The dissenting opinion, with which we fully agree, may be found by a search for "dissenting in part" within the document.

One such quote from the dissenting judge's opinion:

Dissenting Opinion wrote:"Accordingly, because no designation other than "SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST" adequately describes the particular religion which forms the subject matter of the publications, observances and missionary services involved herein, and because petitioners, as adherents to that religion, share the right to so refer to their religion, respondent cannot be permitted--despite the large size and attendant influence of the General Conference--to maintain a registration for the name by which the religion is known generically to the relevant public. Stated otherwise, the designation "SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST" primarily signifies a category, class or "branch" of religious publications, observances and missionary services; it does not identify and distinguish their source."
- Lucan Chartier

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