When Michael Julius Anton came up with a clothing line concept, he thought he had the perfect name for it: "Jesus Surfed." But after he tried to register the trademark, the entrepreneur was shocked to find that another clothing company is cornering the market on "Jesus."
An Italian line named Jesus Jeans had already convinced the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2007 to allow it to sell clothing under Christ's name. This victory then led the Italian company to subsequently rebuff any and all attempts to use Jesus to sell attire. While there's no cracking down on Christ's image, his name -- according to the jeans company -- is off-limits, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Now, Anton is gearing up for a fight over the trademark so that he can advance his Jesus Surfed brand, a company he thought up after organizing a spiritual beach retreat. On JesusSurfed.com, he sells t-shirts, hoodies and bandannas that show Jesus Christ holding a surfboard under a palm tree (these images coincide with Anton's belief that if Jesus were alive today, he'd be a surfer).
A screen shot from the Jesus Jeans web site
After filing for his trademark in November, Anton got an email from Jesus Jeans' attorney asking him to abandon his application and imploring him not to use Jesus Surfed -- warnings that the company has used in the past. The trademark's owner previously led battles against a number of startup companies that have used Christ's name without its permission, putting Anton's business, like those before it, in hot water.
BasicNew SpA, the Turin, Italy-based company that owns Jesus Jeans, claims to have no problem with non-commercial usage of Christ's name, however there's a bit of an issue when the company sees attempts to profit by using a trademark that they have secured.
"If somebody—small church or even a big church—wants to use 'Jesus' for printing a few T-shirts, we don't care," explained Domenico Sindico, the company's general counsel for intellectual property, told the Wall Street Journal.
Despite this explanation and its perfectly legal tenets (there's apparently nothing in U.S. law that restricts the registration of familiar terms, no matter how old or historic), others argue that Jesus' name should be fair game.
Jesus Jeans originally attempted to get its trademark secured in 1999, but was met with initial resistance over fears that the brand would be confused with other trademarks already on the books. The company was inevitably able to convince the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that this wouldn't be an issue and the license was officially granted eight years later (in 2007, as stated).
Screen shot from JesusSurfed.com
The company's past has been somewhat checkered. After its owner died in 1987 and it was later acquired by BasicNew SpA in the 1990s, the company was re-launched two years ago. While it has been successful in warding off other businesses in the past, Anton isn't willing to simply bow to Jesus Jeans' demands.
Thus, he's looking to fight the challenge, despite warnings from experts that the legal fight may be costly. Currently, Anton's seeking a lawyer to take up his case.
And for anyone who thinks that Jesus Jeans won't make good on their threats, they should take heed. The company is currently challenging a separate t-shirt business called Jesus Up -- and using legal means to do so (you can read more about this story here).
"How anyone can claim the name Jesus for themselves and put a trademark on it is beyond me," said Jeff Lamont.
(H/T: Wall Street Journal)