A businessman wants to launch a new website. Like a Christian Mingle or a JDate, its purpose is to let members of a particular religion find love with one another. In this case, the target is members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, better known as Mormons. But he’s running into a snag with the name. When is a Mormon not a Mormon? When he’s a “Mormon®.”
Ars Technica points to the story, a somewhat unusual intellectual property fight. The site founder is perfectly within his rights to try starting a business to help religious singles meet heavenly mates. He wants to call it Mormon Match, which seems pretty straightforward, and he tried to trademark the site’s name. But the church filed a motion to block his claim.
“Mormon,” as it turns out, is a trademarked term. Intellectual Reserve Inc., the holding company that is the church’s parent organization, holds trademarks on the word “Mormon” as well as on the relevant organizations and publications that use the name, like The Book of Mormon and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. It’s not a generic descriptor like “Christian” would be, according to the IRI.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is now coming to the man’s rescue, legally speaking. In an amicus filing, they called on the court to “help deter future trademark ‘bullies'” and find in favor of the site owner. The comparison they drew was from the world of fast food, saying that the IRI can’t block him “from using the word “Mormon” to describe his Mormon matching service as ‘Mormon Match,’ any more than Burger King® could prevent In-n-Out Burger® from including the term ‘burger’ in its name.”
“Trademarks are supposed to be used to protect from unfair competition, not to stifle a small business or to control language,” said the EFF’s IP director.
The site has not yet formally launched, and a hearing date has been set for August 8. Until then, at least, it seems Mormons will have to keep matching elsewhere.