Splinter Group Prohibited From Using Similar Church Name

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Are church denominational terms such as "Methodist," "Baptist," and "Seventh-Day Adventist" generic terms that can be used by any religious group to refer to itself? Or are such terms intellectual property that can be owned-and thereby available for exclusive use-solely by one specific church body? The answer depends on how the term is used and protected by the organization that first adopts the term.

Fortunately for the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, which had registered the name SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST as a trademark, a court recently determined that the name was protectable and prohibited a small splinter group from using a similar name. This case highlights the importance of trademark protection by churches, church networks, and other similar organizations.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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