Taken in vain

Talk about “scandalous and offensive” trademarks!:

[P]hrases containing some form of “God” have been trademarked [sic] more than 3,400 times in the United States: “God answers knee-mail” and “All God’s Children Got Issues” and, of course, “T.G.I. Friday’s,” the restaurant chain.

But where you have trademarks, you also have trademark infringement. Which is how Megan P. Nicholson of Marietta, purveyor of merchandise bearing the logo “Handmade by God,” came to file suit in Atlanta federal court against [Arthus Gross III], owner of [the trademark registration for] “Made by God.”

Asked what he thought God would do in this case, Gross said, “He’s got the right to use thunderbolts and stuff; God doesn’t like competition.”

That’s an understatement. : But God’s “jealousy” may not be quite what Arthur Gross III thinks. : Still, I wouldn’t want to stand next to either Megan P. Nicholson or Arthur the Third in a thunderstorm.

But he understands the irony of the dispute.

“When you’re dealing with the trademark ‘Made by God,’ you don’t want to be the mean guy,” said Gross, who was raised Episcopalian. “At the end of the day, I just want them to go away.”

Well, there may have been as many as three Arthur Grosses, and there’s only one God, of course, but there are usually two sides to every trademark dispute, which is well set out in the Atlanta Journal Constitution article (branding note: : Just try and find the words JOURNAL CONSTITUTION on the paper’s own home page!):

So who’s right? Both sides have a point, trademark attorneys say.

Though Gross trademarked[sic] it first, Nicholson began marketing her clothes before he did, so she has what’s called common law trademark rights in the region where she sells, said Mike Hobbs, a partner with Troutman Sanders. “What a federal registration gives you is nationwide priority, but it’s subject to prior common law use,” Hobbs said.

“The overall test for the trademark is not whether the marks are identical,” Hobbs explained. “The test is, is there a likely confusion? It’s a fairly subjective test; there’s not a mathematical formula.”

A federal registration doesn’t mean Gross owns “God,” or even has a monopoly on the phrase “made by God,” said Frank S. Benjamin, a partner with McKenna Long & Aldridge.

“What you’re getting is the exclusive rights to use the words “made by God” in connection with certain specific goods and services that you sell under that name,” Benjamin said.

Yea, verily! : Praise to attorneys: Hobbs, whose firm bio shows him to be ultra-distinguished, ur-published and crazy accomplished, and Benjamin, younger but on the rise, and featuring both an appropriate biblical moniker and quite the snappy profile in the bio-page head-shot department, for the pithy and on-point sound bites. : And blessings on the head of Péralte C. Paul: a newspaper reporter, nay, a veritable scribe!, who bothers to ask well, quote accurately and get it right!

But above all, praise, of course, to the One Above, Who, famously, continues to put up with all this nonsense. : Only He knows why.

Originally posted on Ron Coleman’s LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION:®.

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