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Episcopal Diocese in South Carolina gets boost in Federal trademarks case

Episcopal Diocese in South Carolina gets boost in Federal trademarks case

U.S. District Court Judge Richard M. Gergel issued an Order and Opinion on Wednesday, December 18, granting in part the Motion to Enforce the Injunction filed by The Diocese of South Carolina (The Episcopal Church in South Carolina) on November 11. In the Order, the judge notes: “The Defendants [the disassociated diocese] here clearly violated the terms of the Court’s Order and Injunction.” Furthermore, Judge Gergel’s order denied the Motion to Stay the injunction filed by the disassociated diocese.

In the petition on November 11, the Diocese of South Carolina requested enforcement of the Court’s Order and Opinion and Permanent Injunction issued on September 19, 2019. The petition cited numerous examples that prove continued violations of the Injunction by the disassociated diocese as it “hold(s) itself out to be the Historic Diocese in many respects.”

In yesterday’s ruling, Judge Gergel ruled that “the Court finds that Defendants violated the Court’s Order and Injunction by continuing to use the terms ‘Founded in 1785,’ ‘14th Bishop,’ ‘XIV Bishop,’ and ‘229th Diocesan Convention.’” He further noted that the defendant’s use of these terms and phrases violate the order and injunction by “continuing to claim goodwill as a successor to the Historic Diocese when only TECSC [The Episcopal Church in South Carolina] has that right.” He, therefore, issued a permanent injunction prohibiting the disassociated diocese from using any and all of these terms.

In the 20-page opinion, Judge Gergel also ruled in the favor of The Diocese of South Carolina (TECSC) by acknowledging that by posting convention journals, diocesan constitutions and canons, and reports of trustees (of the Diocese of South Carolina) prior to 2012 on their website, the disassociated diocese was also in violation of the injunction.

The order established that all such documents prior to 2012 must be removed from their website. All similar reports and documents after 2012 may be reposted only if all “infringing marks and other terms that misappropriate the goodwill” of the marks of the Diocese of South Carolina are removed in entirety. Additionally, the new injunction noted that diocesan conventions of the disassociated diocese may not be numbered in a way “indicating a history dating to 1785.”

Judge Gergel also ruled that all issues of “Jubilate Deo” (which originated as the newspaper/newsletter of the Diocese of South Carolina in the 1970s) bearing the marks and other terms of the Diocese of South Carolina must be removed from the disassociated diocese’s website as well.

Yesterday’s ruling adds to the injunction established by Judge Gergel’s Order on September 19, when he declared that the group that disassociated from The Episcopal Church in 2012 (and all affiliated churches) can no longer use the name “Diocese of South Carolina” nor use the “diocesan seal” or “Episcopal shield.”

The defendants have appealed this September 19 ruling, but in yesterday’s order, Judge Gergel clearly noted that: “Defendants may not subvert this Court’s clear Order, as detailed above, by continuing to co-opt the goodwill of the exact marks they are enjoined from using.”


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