Splinter Group Prohibited From Using Similar Church Name


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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