It seemed like a great idea: a clothing line called “Jesus Surfed”. Whether or not Jesus ever surfed was not important to Michael Julius Anton. The name was catchy and unique, so he thought.
Anton wanted to register the name Jesus Surfed as a trademark in the US, but noticed he was beaten to it. An Italian jeans maker already registered the word “Jesus” as a trademark in 2007. The owner of Jesus Jeans has been defending its trademark vigorously ever since.
After suing “Jesus First”, “Sweet Jesus” and “Jesus Couture”, “Jesus Surfed” was next.
The trademark attorneys for Jesus Jeans merely state their client is trying to protect their brand value: “If somebody—small church or even a big church—wants to use ‘Jesus’ for printing a few T-shirts, we don’t care. But when companies like Mr. Anton’s seek to commercialize their products, that’s a concern”.
This US case comes at a time where the trademark ALLAH has been refused in the Benelux. The trademark was applied for, amongst others, clothing. The Benelux Trademarks Office did, however, refuse the mark based on the fact that it lacked distinctiveness. Remarkably enough, the Trademark Office did not refuse the mark based on moral grounds, which they could have. It is disputable whether “Jesus” can be a trademark or not. Why not? If a generic term like “Apple” can be a trademark, why can’t “Jesus”?
It remains an interesting question: from a legal point of view (MarkMatters.com is of the opinion that a word like “Jesus” can be claimed as a trademark in certain circumstances), as well as from a general point of view. Should a name like “Jesus” be kept free from any and all commercial exploitation? If so, then what about trademarks like Shiva (the Indian goddess) or The Buddah Bar?
Discussion on this topic can have biblical proportions, so let’s have your comments!