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• Can a denomination prevent a nonaffiliated local church from using a name similar to that of the denomination itself? That was the issue before a federal appeals court in a recent case. The General Conference of the Seventh-Day Adventists sued the "Seventh-Day Adventist Congregational Church" (located in Kealakekua, Hawaii) and its pastor for trademark infringement and unfair competition. A trial court entered a judgment "on the pleadings" in favor of the denomination (i.e., he refused to let the case proceed to trial). The court also issued an order prohibiting the local church from using a name including the term "Seventh-Day Adventist" or "SDA," or representing to others that it was connected in any way with the Seventh-Day Adventist denomination. The local church refused to comply with this order on the ground that the denomination's trademark was invalid since it was "generic." ...

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Richard R. Hammar is an attorney, CPA and author specializing in legal and tax issues for churches and clergy.

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Posted:
  • March 1, 1990