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27 Feb, 2013 19:58

Denim deity: Jesus Jeans defends trademark

Denim deity: Jesus Jeans defends trademark

The Ten Commandments warns against it, but that didn’t stop an Italian company from using the Lord's name in vain. Now, Jesus Jeans is ready to defend its brand, vowing to sue anyone aiming to start a clothing line with the name “Jesus” in the title.

The company’s warnings are anything but subtle, as Virginia entrepreneur Michael Julius Anton recently found out.

After attempting to trademark his Christian t-shirt and surf accessory line “Jesus Surfed,” Anton received an email from Jesus Jeans’ parent company, BasicNet SpA. The letter asked Anton to abandon his application, the Wall Street Journal reported.

"If you do not agree, then Jesus Jeans reserves its right to an accounting/damages and all other appropriate relief with respect to your trademark and trademark application,"
the email read.

Anton aims to fight the infringement claim - and he’s not the first one to go up against the denim company in court.

Jesus Jeans is currently in the midst of settlement talks with “Jesus Up,” a small business which sells Christian-themed t-shirts.

"The name was so good and easy…when I looked it up and it wasn't trademarked, I realized it was truly a gift from the Lord,” Jesus Up founder Jeff Lamont said.

But Jesus Jeans didn’t agree. The company was quick to contact Lamont, claiming that his apparel brand infringed on its trademark. BasicNet SpA demanded that he scrap his plans to commercialize Jesus Up apparel, and presented evidence at a patent trial. Both parties have agreed to suspend the trial while they make an attempt at a settlement.

"How anyone can claim the name Jesus for themselves and put a trademark on it is beyond me," Lamont said.

A screenshot from jesusjeans.com

But not every small business has been prepared to fight Jesus Jeans – many have backed down amid fear of lawsuits.

The denim company has previously convinced labels such as “Jesus First,” “Sweet Jesus,” and “Jesus Couture” to abandon their trademark efforts.

But in the true spirit of Jesus, the company insists it has compassion for the church.  

“If somebody – a small church or even a big church – wants to use ‘Jesus’ for printing a few t-shirts, we don’t care,”

general counsel for intellectual property at BasicNet, Domenico Sindico, said.

However, he says that the commercialization of such apparel is

“a concern.”

After years of fighting to trademark the word “Jesus,” the US Patent and Trademark Office granted BasicNet SpA exclusive rights to the word in 2007. The company’s trademark on the word “Jesus” covers clothing and sportswear in the US.

But not every country has been so receptive to the controversial brand. In 2003, Britain’s patent office rejected BasicNet SpA’s application, calling the name

“morally offensive to the public.”

Attempts to trademark the word “Jesus” in other countries such as Germany, Ireland, Turkey, China, Switzerland, Norway, Cuba, and Australia were also unsuccessful. However, the clothing company found a loophole, registering through the European Union as a “Community Trademark,” which makes the brand valid across the EU – including Britain.  

Jesus Jeans isn’t the first consumer product to face criticism for its religious connotation. Earlier this month, restaurant chain Pret A Manger was forced to withdraw its “Virgin Mary Crisps” after receiving a wave of complaints.