6 June 2014
Electronic Frontier Foundation
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged a federal judge to quickly resolve a dispute over the use of the term "Mormon" in an online dating site, arguing that extended litigation based on a frivolous claim could bury a small business in its infancy.
Intellectual Reserve, Inc., which manages intellectual property rights for The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints, has made numerous trademark claims against a website called "Mormon Match," which offers online dating services for members of the LDS church. Intellectual Reserve concedes that the term "Mormon" can be used to describe church members generally, but claims that its "family of marks" using "Mormon" (such as "Mormon Tabernacle Choir") gives it the power to silence any business that dares to use the term in commerce. In an amicus brief filed Friday, EFF argues that because "Mormon" is undisputedly a descriptive term, its use in the name of the website is fair and legal.
"The name of this service simply describes what it's doing – matching up Mormons," said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. "Trademarks are supposed to be used to protect from unfair competition, not to stifle a small business or to control language."
Often, when websites or other projects get trademark complaints, the creators decide to change their content or services in order to avoid expensive litigation – even if they know they are in the right. Merely the threat of a trademark lawsuit, and the costs associated with it, is enough to chill many entrepreneurs, artists, and activists from innovative projects.
"This case can and should be dismissed now," said EFF Staff Attorney Vera Ranieri. "The spectre of expensive litigation shouldn't be a tool used to coerce Internet entrepreneurs and other content creators into succumbing to meritless infringement claims."
See the full amicus brief