Leech Tishman

The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) has upheld a refusal by an examination of the US Patent and Trademark Office to register the proposed mark PORNO JESUS for adult entertainment.

The case illustrates the analysis the TTAB goes through in considering a potentially controversial trademark.

Scandalous or Immoral?

The applicant, Matthew Beck, filed an application to register PORNO JESUS in International Class 9 for:

DVDs featuring music videos, adult themed content, glamour photography, and adult entertainment; video recordings featuring music videos, adult themed content, glamour photography, and adult entertainment.

The Trademark Examining Attorney refused the proposed registration under Section 2(a), 15 U.S.C. § 1052(a), of the Trademark Act on two grounds:

  • The mark consists of or comprises immoral or scandalous matter.
  • The mark includes matter which may disparage or bring into contempt or disrepute persons, institutions, beliefs or national symbols.

Beck appealed and filed a request for reconsideration. The request was denied.

Beck submitted articles “discussing shifting views among Christians on issues including pornography.” In particular, he submitted a screenshot from televictim.com/christianporn, “a website devoted to disseminating and supporting Christian pornography, and offering contemporary pornographic video productions marketed toward Christians.”

HOOKERS FOR JESUS

Beck also submitted copies of third-party trademark registrations for:

  • HOOKERS FOR JESUS
  • REDNECK JESUS
  • THE DAY JESUS SPOKE HIP-HOP
  • WHO WOULD JESUS SUE?

In response, the Examining Attorney submitted evidence showing the opposition of various Christian denominations to pornography.

The “Disparaging” Test

Under § 1052(a), to determine whether a proposed trademark is “disparaging,” the TTAB applies the following test:

  • what is the likely meaning of the matter in question, taking into account not only dictionary definitions, but also the relationship of the matter to the other elements in the mark, the nature of the goods or services, and the manner in which the mark is used in the marketplace in connection with the goods or services; and
  • if that meaning is found to refer to identifiable persons, institutions, beliefs or national symbols, whether that meaning may be disparaging to a substantial composite of the referenced group.

According to the TTAB’s decision,

Whether a proposed mark is disparaging must be determined from the standpoint of a substantial composite of the referenced group (although not necessarily a majority) in the context of contemporary attitudes.

The TTAB concluded that

The mark PORNO JESUS associates Jesus Christ with participating in pornography or otherwise being connected with pornographic materials. Thus, the plain meaning of the terms comprising the mark PORNO JESUS, which links Jesus with pornography, supports a finding that the mark may disparage Christian-Americans.

The TTAB did not rule on whether the mark was also “scandalous.”

The matter is In re Beck, Serial No. 85767380 (TTAB Mar. 19, 2015).

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Photo Attribution: “SistersPerpetualIndulgenceHunkyJesusCompetition” by Jere from San Francisco, USA.  Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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