Bruce Godfrey posted about a coffee shop in Utah (“Just Add Coffee”) that was selling shirts depicting the Angel Moroni having coffee poured into his trumpet. The LDS Church was not amused and sent a letter to the coffee shop owners asserting that the Angel Moroni was a registered trademark and they had to stop selling the shirts.
From the Deseret News story:
In a letter sent to Beazer’s home last week, the shop owner was informed that the image of Moroni is a registered trademark of the LDS Church. The letter also requested that Just Add Coffee discontinue use of the image in advertising campaigns.
Attorneys for Just Add Coffee have sent a letter to church officials to inform them of the shirts and request that the shop owners be sent proof of the trademark.
“If they provide proof, we’re going to comply,” Beazer said. “We don’t want to break any laws or anything.”
Church spokesman Scott Trotter confirmed to the Deseret Morning News on Thursday that the image is an LDS Church trademark.
If the LDS Church has a trademark on the Angel Moroni, then there’s a clear violation of their rights and the coffee shop owners are infringing. I say if, because there’s no evidence that the LDS Church has any registered trademark for the Angel Moroni.
As noted on the Deseret Spectacle blog, a search of the U.S. Trademark Office’s database yields no results for the Angel Moroni. I did a search for all marks registered to Intellectual Reserve (the LDS Church corporation that owns their intellectual property rights) just to avoid missing any image marks (like this one), but no results for the Angel Moroni.
Now the Washington Post picked up the story, continuing to accept the assertion from the initial story that the LDS Church has trademarked the image of the Angel Moroni.
Admittedly, it’s possible that the LDS Church has a state trademark in Utah, just not a Federally registered trademark. In preparation for my Trademark class tonight, I decided I’d search the Westlaw database of state trademarks, going back to 1900. Still no luck finding any Angel Moroni marks.
The upshot of this research is that the LDS Church does not have a registered trademark on the Angel Moroni. At best, they may have some common law trademark rights acquired through using the depiction of the Angel Moroni, but that’s a far, far cry from a “registered trademark” as asserted by the LDS Church lawyers and spokesmen.
And here, I thought that Mormons weren’t supposed to lie about stuff.