A word about the Ft. Worth trademark infringement suit

We received the following yesterday and followed it to its source, where it appears to remain credible. We found it a helpful reframing of the Ft. Worth trademark infringement suit reported here last week.

Last week, the Diocese of Fort Worth hauled former Episcopal Bishop Jack Iker into Federal Court. He is accused by the Diocese of violating US trademark law, in that he is using the seal and name of the Diocese of Fort Worth, which are not his to use.

On the surface, this may sound like some sort of legal nit-picking. In fact, it is an interesting move by the attorneys for the diocese. It puts Iker between a rock and a hard place. Here how: The Diocese of Fort Worth registered the seal and name only in July of this year, stating that they had been in continuous use since at least 1983, and that the Diocese is the rightful and only owner and user of the same. Iker must now defend his ownership and use, by using the argument that he’s been using all along; that TEC is a voluntary association of dioceses, and that any diocese can disassociate with the national church at will, taking their property – including their trademarks – with them.

This matter is already before the Texas courts, where it is already aimed at determining which the “real” diocese is. And it’s been suffering lots of delaying tactics on former Bishop Iker’s part. And, I think, some lack of clarity on the part of the Texas courts.

Now the Diocese is going after a Federal ruling to determine who has the right to use the seal and name of the Diocese, and therefore which the “real” diocese is. Federal courts are pretty much bound by law to say the real Diocese is the one The Episcopal Church Identifies as such. To this layman, the trademark complaint appears to be a clever legal maneuver aimed at getting that settled. ~Lawrence L. Graham

What do you think?

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2 Comments
  1. John B. Chilton

    Other related news: Following it’s recent procedural loss, here’s the statement by the spokesperson for the Iker diocese on Judge Chupp in the Texas property case (not the trademark case):

    “We didn’t ‘fail.’ The judge granted part of the motion and did not see the other part quite the way we did. He appears to be prepared to acknowledge that we are not the ‘Southern Cone Diocese; of anything, however, so it is possible that he will grant the rest of our request at another time. “It was an odd hearing in which the court was never called to order, the judge did not wear his robe, and our attorney, whose motion was being discussed, was specifically disallowed by the judge to present his argument. Mr. Nelson made his presentation against the motion, and our attorney was only allowed to answer questions. That is highly unusual.

    Our judge is a young and vigorous man who understandably wants to hear the substance of the case and bring it to a conclusion. We may appear rather tedious as we insist that the correct parties be named in the suit and that their legal names be used, rather than nicknames or descriptive terms. Mr. Nelson proposed more than once that we have the trial and then figure out who the proper parties are. I would submit that not even the NFL conducts itself this way. In a football contest, two teams are invited, and then someone determines that those teams have in fact shown up on the appointed day. Only then does the game begin. It is not a matter of a bunch of people streaming onto the field for a skirmish, then meeting later to determine what teams, if any, they might represent. If that minimum of decorum is the standard for a sporting event, how much more important is it to identify the proper parties to a lawsuit that will determine the rightful authority

    and ownership of an institution and its property?

    Source: Virtue

    Bishop Iker has routinely issued official statements when hearings with Chupp appeared to his group to go their way.

  2. Paul Powers

    The problem with this analysis is that the only issue before the federal court is who gets to use the name “Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.” The federal court is not being asked to determine which is the “real diocese,” nor is it being asked to determine who’s entitled to the assets held by the diocesan corporation. These are the subjects of the state-court lawsuit.

    Even if the federal court were to rule that Bishop Iker has to stop using the name “Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth” (e.g. because it suggests an affiliation with the EC that no longer exists), that would not prevent the state court from ruling that Bishop Iker’s diocese is the continuation of the diocese that was organized back in 1983.

    Of court it is _way_ too early to tell how either court will rule on the merits of the issues before it (or whether these rulings will be upheld on appeal).

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