Friday, June 13, 2008


[An image of the official Seventh-day Adventist logo was removed at the request of the Office of General Counsel.]

An excerpt from my conference's weekly announcement email:
UPDATED SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST LOGO It now includes the registered trademark ® symbol. Update your stationary, business cards, newsletterheads, church bulletins, and other printed items. Use the ® after the first use of the word "Adventist" in a document. Adventist Church Connect websites have been updated. Contact to download the updated logos.

There you have it. My "identity" as an Adventist has been trademarked. Why would I want to be a part of a worldwide movement when I can sport a global brand?

Sarcasm aside, what I see here is the culmination of a long, misguided attempt on the part of the General Conference (GC) Communication Department* to control the meaning of the name "Adventist" from the top down. There's an history of legal action around this issue (some of it justified) that isn't necessary to rehash here. My point is that there are two major problems with this strategy.
  1. They're defending a brand that has minimal market penetration as if it had major market penetration. A 2003 a study found that only 56% of North Americans had heard of the Adventist Church, and of those one sixth knew nothing about it beyond that fact it was a religion. My point is that at a time when we need all the viral marketing help we can get, we're actually banning websites that aren't run by the church bureaucracy from having the word "Adventist" in their title (e.g. Sabbath Pulpit "formerly the Adventist Pulpit").
  2. For a communication department* that is reputed to be emergent and postmodern and [insert hip label here] this a very unclassy move. In a generation that is over-advertised and suspicious of religious institutions, that little ® screams, "Join us, so we can get your money!" Seriously, that ® is going to do more damage to our image than the Creation Seventh Day Adventist Church ever could.

Now I don't want this to be an anti-Ray screed. I think his department has done a lot of good things lately. But it seems to me, from where I sit, that Mr. Dabrowski has some 'splainin' to do; and I am open to that explanation.

(There are two possible responses that will mean something significant to me: (1) Ray Dabrowski comments on this blog and offers an explanation, or (2) I get a communication from the GC asking me to remove the official logo.)

*It has now become clear that this decision did not originate with the Communication Department, but with the Office of General Counsel, directed by Robert Kyte (see the comments).


  1. Hi David,

    While I would conjecture that Ray Dabrowski and others in the General Conference Communication Department (COM) are not opposed to this update to the logo, the real impetus behind this is coming from the General Conference Office of General Counsel (OGC). Whether by oversight or other factors, when the "new church logo" and other corporate identity standards were being developed in 1996, the inclusion of the registered trademark symbol was evidently not on the map of COM or OGC leadership at that time.

    Bob Kyte, who is in essence the lead attorney for the church, became director of OGC in/around 2005. This initiative of firming up the Adventist brand had started prior to his arrival but picked up significantly under his leadership. Taking a more aggressive "corporation style" attitude towards the name of the church (including use of the registered trademark symbol where appropriate) and it's "branding" is not limited to the logo, there have also been numerous Internet domain names using the term "Adventist" that OGC has moved to bring into the church's ownership/control. The legal underpinning of the registered trademark symbol being added to the logo (at least in the U.S.) is based on work by OGC (dating back to 1980 or before) to have the name "Seventh-day Adventist" registered on behalf of the church with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

    In the early 90's, probably in part because of the Branch Davidian situation in Waco, Texas, there appears to have begun a concerted effort to (1) assert stronger ownership of the name "Seventh-day Adventist", (2) encourage the use of the less cumbersome "Adventist" wherever appropriate, and (3) discourage and/or abandon the use of "SDA" (which means almost nothing to people outside of Adventism and would be impossible to trademark with any effectiveness).

    COM has been emphasizing these 3 points since at least 1995. This is in part a "branding" issue but, probably more importantly for COM purposes, it also helps when it comes to corporate communication and damage control. If a communication officer at any level of the church can say to the media "check the records, this group is not in any way legally associated with the Seventh-day Adventist church", most mainstream media will quickly stop using terms Adventist or Seventh-day Adventist to describe the person or group in question. Of course, this cuts both ways. If something good is being done by an Adventist group that isn't "legally" part of the church, you might lose the positive spin/goodwill if their Adventist connection is obscured. However, since most news media seems to be driven by bad news rather than good news, the church leadership that set this course of brand identity/brand protection in motion (assuming they even weighed the pros and cons) probably were considering the damage control issues as more important than any marketing limitations that might occur, at least as far as interaction with news media was concerned.

  2. Youngest:

    Thanks for the essay. Your insider's perspective into GC dynamics gives some much needed context. I shouldn't lay 100% of the responsibility with the Com people, as legal counsel would certainly be involved with this decision.

    I see the point of protecting the church's name from being used by people like the Branch Davidians, but I think my point still stands regarding the pitfalls of this new tradema®k policy. Remember that, according to the study I cited, fifteen years after Waco %44 of North Americans did not recognize the name "Seventh-day Adventist Church", which, if you look at the study, is three percent more than recognized the name one year after the compound burned down. So even after all that negative publicity, we still were and are not a household name.

    Now, let's look at a offshoot that recently made the news for illegal activity, the Lord our Righteousness Church. One out of 120 articles on a Google News search done today mentions that it is an Adventist offshoot. From this one could argue that we don't need the ® to shield our denomination from bad news.

    But let's assume that this news story gets bigger and reporters start laying out the history of this cult. What it look any better to have the media report that they are an offshoot of the Seventh-day Adventist Church®? Is the ® necessary for our PR people to show that they are not part of our denomination?

    Meanwhile, what about groups like Adventist Frontier Missions. Will they be allowed to keep the registered trademark in their title? Maybe they will, because of their size and influence, but it's the little guy who's the future of the church's marketing. We need to get viral, and plastering the ® on all our documents isn't going to help that.

    Finally, the church's attempt to control the brand might have been a good idea in 1996, but today successful marketers know that you need to give your customers control of meaning that is attached to your products. In other words, you build your identity from the bottom up. This ® is a symbol of top down control, and is another tool that those in positions of authority can use to stifle innovations that the younger generation will use to alter the meaning of the name Seventh-day Adventist and in so doing make it their own.

  3. I had a fun little exchange with some lawyers from the GC over the use of Adventist on a Myspace account called the Adventists page. I had created a logo for the space that incorporated the Church logo in it. The page was called the Adventists Space.

    After I removed the logo at the request of the GC lawyers, I found one day some of the other content had been removed from my space and not by me.

    The point is, the church takes seriously the use of the church logo and name, and even variations of it. They go after people!

    I deleted the MySpace account and the over 1,500 friends it had. With some help from the GC legal team.

  4. Hello David:

    I am sorry you feel the way that you do about the GC's efforts to protect the Church's name; however I appreciate your views because each of us is entitled to voice our opinion, and it keeps the dialog fresh.

    I did read your post and the comments from others and while I disagree with some of what is labeled "context", what I will say (since I am the one who handles the intellectual property matters for the Church) is that there are some errors of fact that have been asserted as the position of OGC.

    First as an aside, I do not think that we should use the statistics you cite as a reason NOT to protect the Church's name. Rather, they should be used to prove the point that we have a lot of work to do in terms of reaching out to and ministering to people here in our own country so that they know who we are and what we believe.

    I also want to respond to Jared's comments that he was using a modified Church logo on his Adventist MySpace site and that someone within the Church removed content from his site. These two assertions are simply false. When I first contacted, Mr. Wright he was using THE church logo on his site and making his site appear to the public as if it was affiliated somehow with the Church. Second, no one has his passwords to perform any editing on his site. If content was missing, that has nothing to do with the GC. It is unfortunate that he would essentially say that we stole his material, as that is not something we would ever do.

    I would also like to just briefly explain that in trademark law, if you do not protect your marks from what is called "dilution" (meaning allowing anyone to use them without permission), over time the marks will become meaningless. If this happens, anyone would be able to set up their own Church or religious organization espousing any beliefs they choose (such as animal sacrifice - yes, this is a real example) and refer to themselves as a Seventh-day Adventist Church. Perhaps you have not considered how much negative impact that could have on our identity as a church and our efforts to spread the gospel.

    While I appreciate that some view our efforts to protect the Church's name as a way to hold the little guy down, it simply is not. People must be able to see the bigger picture.

    In terms of where the encircled R is to be used, I have a presentation with guidelines that explains where it needs to be used and when it does not. Our point is not for it to be a burden to readers or users. I was directly involved in implementing the encircled R efforts and I can assure you that it has NOTHING to do with getting money from anyone. And if the symbol is placed properly, it should not "scream" anything - it should simply provide notice to the public. Take a look at some of the things that you see every day such as the Microsoft logo that appears on your screen as your computer boots up. You probably never even noticed that there is an encircled R there. Use of the R seems novel right now because it is new, but soon people will not notice it at all, and we will have done what the law requires in order for us to protect our name. It appears to me that you are speaking from a marketing perspective, which is fine, but it might be useful in terms of this topic to also consider some of these ideas from a legal perspective, which unfortunately we cannot ignore even though we are a religious organization. In any event, feel free to contact me if you would like more information.

    I would also note that there is also a mechanism in Church policy whereby organizations can apply for a license to use the Church's trademarks. Again, I am happy to provide you with a copy at your request.

    And last but not least. . . (and you knew this was coming . . .) I am going to have to ask you to remove the Church logo from your blog because you do not have permission to use it. I do appreciate your cooperation and your efforts to help us protect the Church's name.

    Dionne A. Parker
    Associate General Counsel
    General Conference

  5. Dionne:

    Thank you for responding promptly to the issue I raised. I also want to thank you for your work on behalf of our world church. I have removed the logo, as you requested.

    I'm wondering if you would be able to summarize here, for the benefit of my readers, the guidelines for the use of the ® symbol. I think this would bring some more clarity to the issue. I also want to to clarify one issue you raised and respond to another.

    First, I did not insinuate that in implementing the use of the ® symbol the church is trying to get people's money. What is said was that is how members of my generation would perceive the ® symbol on the church's name and logo. I only presume the highest motives with regard to yourself and the rest of the GC staff unless I have reason to think otherwise, and in this case I believe you acted in good faith.

    Second, I want to analyze your Microsoft analogy as a symbol of the reasons why you and I differ on this issue. You see, I recently switched to a Mac, and on my Mac I don't see the ® symbol next to the Apple logo. In fact I don't see it on my computer at all.

    Now go the the Apple website and compare it with the Microsoft website. Notice the difference? Millions of dollars are at stake in the iPhone brand, so why no iPhone® ?

    Next let's look at the bottom of the home page of the largest protestant denomination in the United States, the Southern Baptist Convention, and compare it to the bottom of our homepage. Where's the ®? In terms of market penetration they're Microsoft and we're Apple, but--and this is my point--we're now marketing ourselves as if it were the other way around.

  6. How ironic!

    Dave's employer (Alberta Conference of Seventh-day Adventists(R?) ) has requested him to update his business card and stationery to carry the new logo with the (R).

    Meanwhile an Associate Genral Counsel of the GC of SDA (non-trademarked acronyms?) has requested Dave to remove the selfsame logo from his blog.

    The federal courts of the USA (non-trademarked acronym) have consistently ruled that the free speech clause of the First Amendment to the Constituion (non-copyrighted) extends to incidental use of trademarked and/or copyrighted materials in the course of non-commercial free speech. Recently the courts have ruled that "new media" forms of publishing including Internet blogs are constitutionally protected forms of free speech.

    I am not a denominational employee. Were I to display the above-mentioned logo in my blog together with commentary about the logo, in the USA this would be constitutionally protected free speech. However as a denominational employee Dave has wisely decided to remove the logo from his blog rather than tangling with the GC legal department over his free-speech rights.

    Pressuring the Adventist Pulpit web site to change its name to Sabbath Pulpit also raises some interesting questions. Last I knew this web site was run by a young black SDA pastor who can legitimately be described as a Son Of Adventist Privilege. Today many of the links on the front page point to SDA sermons and publications.

    Apparently the OGC of the GC of SDA believes that its US PTO registration of the name Seventh-day Adventist (R) also gains control over the use of the common word Adventist.

    From to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language the definition of Adventist is "A member of any of several Christian denominations that believe Jesus's Second Coming and the end of the world are near."

    Does the OGC really believe it can control which of "several Christian denominations" will be permitted to use the word Aventist? There are plenty of examples of trademark claims that have been disallowed by the US courts because the law does not permit trademarking of a common language word without qualification.

    I would prefer not to see my tithe dollars spent on litigation of free-speech and common-language issues arising from dubious attempts to "defend" a trademark.

    Better to focus on defending a strong tradmark from actual infringement rather than taking actions which do not in fact protect the trademark and could if challenged have the opposite effect.

  7. In all fairness, at least the church is open enough that I can still write a post like this and keep my job. Most businesses would tell me not to come to work tomorrow. And, as I understand, there was a day when the Adventist Church was the same way.

    So props to the saints at the GC including Dionne for their fair-minded spirit of open dialogue! Our church is the better for it. :D

  8. One more response and then we can take it offline if you'd like . . .

    1) There really is not a concise summary of when to use the encircled R. Again, if you email me, I will be happy to send you the presentation for you to try and summarize if you wish.

    2) With regard to Microsoft and Mac/iPhone - the decision of whether to use the encircled R really depends on the organization. Our Church name lends itself to being used freely by other groups. In my opinion, its a bit more difficult for a company to come up with a product similar to the iPhone and to also use the same name.

    3) The Baptists are a PERFECT example for why we need to protect our church's name. They never trademarked their name and thus, anyone and everyone who wants to call themselves a Baptist and set up a church can. This means that there is not necessarily consistency in the beliefs and practices of every Church that identifies itself as "baptist." Consider the recent Westboro Baptist Church people that were protesting at the funerals of soldiers and the Virginia Tech students who were killed. They were not affiliated with the Southern Baptist organization, but the Baptist church took a real hit and they really could not do much to distance themselves from the group because anybody can call themselves a Baptist organization. That is not what we want for our Church.

    4) Just for the record, I am far from being a saint, but I appreciate the props anyway (smile).

    Take care.


  9. What an interesting discussion!

    I fully understand why "Seventh-day Adventist Church" and the church's logo should be protected.

    But I concur with an earlier commenter questioning if the church ought to do the same with "Adventist." Has the church done this? Dionne mentioned that the case of the Baptists is a perfect example of why "Baptist" should have been trademarked. But by whom? The insinuation is that the Southern Baptists should've done that, but what right would that particular Baptist body have to do so? The historical reality is that the Baptist movement has scores of big and small denominations. You've got Northern Baptists, Southern Baptists, American Baptists, Seventh-day Baptists, etc.

    For us, the word "Adventist" has been used by offshoots in their names in such instances as the Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement and the Davidian Seventh-day Adventist Association whose see themselves as the true heirs of historic Seventh-day Adventism. But then, as has been pointed out, there are other groups that belong to the Adventist tradition such as the Advent Christian Church, Jehovah's Witnesses, Church of God (Seventh Day), Worldwide Church of God, and other associated groups.

    The question is: Who has the rightful claim to the word "Adventist"? In my view, this is almost like asking who has the right to trademark "Christian." It quickly becomes a question of theology and history--and the answer is: no one group has that right. And even if one group were to somehow win the right to trademark "Adventist," it would be an act of presumption and arrogance on the part of the group seeking it and historically wrong and unethical. Just think how we would feel if some other group had trademarked "Adventist"? After all ... we ourselves have taken (some would say co-opted) the name "Adventist" from our Millerite forebears.

    Of course, all this is moot if "Adventist" remains necessarily untrademarked and historically correctly "diluted" in definition.

    I fully support of the necessity of protecting the name "Seventh-day Adventist." But as one who is working to present our community in the scholarly world as part of a larger world of Adventism (many of them apocalyptic traditions, communities, and expressions), I would argue strongly that "Adventist" and "Adventism" remain "up for grabs" by any body that seeks it or is historically associated with it.

  10. For the record, the Seventh-day Adventist Trademark Guidelines state:

    "Church trademarks, such as "Seventh-day Adventist," "Adventist," and "Ministry," may be used only in connection with denominational ministries and non-commercial activities of approved lay and professional groups."

  11. Dionne,

    The problem is that in an effort to protect the name of the Church, you are actually degrading the image of the Church. To most loyal Seventh-day Adventist employees and members this comes across as silly and bureaucratic; it trivializes the denomination. It makes the church appear cheap and secular, not an authentic spiritual movement with its roots in a connection with God. You are engaged in a kind of behavior that sociologists call "commodification." You are treating the Church as if it were a commercial commodity. That lowers it considerably from the place that people want to be. The problem of unaffiliated groups acting or proclaiming on behalf of the denomination is a real problem, and I commend you being concerned about it, but this strategy is not working and has too many unintended consequences. Please re-think the strategy.

  12. I am happy this conversation is finally being made on line. However, I feel the need to clarify a couple of issues as it relates to my website...

    GC legal notified me that AdventistPulpit.Com was in violation of the new website guidelines of the church.

    I had heard of other groups and members as well as nonmembers who had been contacted over the issue so I made the decision that I would comply without any further notice from the GC legal.

    I must admit I was a little irritated for a while, but ultimately at least in my case, it has opened the doors to speak to others in a non-denominational way. I have had and continue to have discussions with seventh-day sabbatarians and non-sabbatarian Adventist and non...I think, in my case at least, after a little blip, it has helped to broaden the ministry...

    On another point, there may be some confusion. I am a ministerial student at Vanderbilt Divinity School, but I am not an ordained or licensed Seventh-day Adventist minister. I am as someone said "Son Of Adventist Privilege." While some do on occasion refer to me as pastor, one should not confuse me with an "ordained or licensed minister of the Seventh-day Adventist church." I am not...

    Be that as it may, I love the church, I love our message, and every time I think about dropping the site, I always keep coming to it.

    I am past the irritation now. I still think that the policy is not best, but if a perspective web minister were to ask me what to do...I would tell them to either apply for a license to use the name or choose a name that is totally disconnected from the church...Then I would tell them my preference was to choose a totally disconnected name... But whatever you do keep on preaching the message...

    God Bless

  13. What a way to throw a wet blanket over those eager to share their faith!

    How can you legally restrict the rights of members of an organization from identifying themselves as such?

    How can you register a word, Adventist, that is a generic term that was used by many groups prior to 1863?

    I suggest this matter be brought to the floor of conference constituency meetings, and to the floor of the General Conference session in 2010. This is an embarrassment.

    The lawyers need to immerse themselves more in the Spirit of Prophecy and the Scriptures, and less in these silly squabbles that only strangle the freedom of members to proclaim their faith.

    Luke 9:49-50

  14. Does SDA Kinship have permission to use the name?

    Does Adventist Today?

    Does the Association of Adventist Forums?

    These are not organizations listed in the SDA Yearbook.

    Why the selective enforcement?

    Oh, perhaps it has something to do with the lawsuit the GC lost against SDA Kinship ...?

  15. Anon. #1: I agree with the majority of what you're saying, but think it's unfair to suggest lawyers like Dionne are not spiritual enough just because we disagree with their strategies.

    Anon. #2: I think the church ought to sue groups, like SDA Kinship, who use the church's full title in their name. But I also think we should err on the side of liberality with (as opposed to protection of) our name for reasons I've already stated.

  16. I'm not saying they're not spiritual enough (how do you quantify that?)--I'm suggesting they've lost sight of the purpose for which the church exists. And it is wrong for lawyers to present themselves as leaders of the church who can coerce members. One, that's not the Christian model of leadership. Two, even if it was, that's not the role that lawyers have in the church.

  17. Anon #1:

    I see what your getting at. Fair enough!

  18. The OGC was overstepping their rights when they asked you to remove the logo.

    The Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. § 107, says:

    "Notwithstanding the provisions of sections and, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as CRITICISM, COMMENT, NEWS REPORTING, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright."

    They're bullying tactics really go too far.

  19. Anonymous,

    Is the copyright law relevant to this discussion of trademark? I am not sure...

  20. David,

    Thanks for the link. I find it difficult to interpret this article in light of the fact that it appears from the article that trademark law was meant to keep people from infringing on the ability of the trademark holder from making money on the trademark.

    However, in this case it appears that the church's intention for getting the trademark is not to ensure its ability to make money, but to keep people who the church finds problematic from using the trademark...

    Has the trademark law been used in this way by any other church? Does anyone know?

  21. Hello Everyone:
    I am an attorney and an Adventist. What I know about IP law you could write on a matchbook cover.

    However, I do know this: Just quoting statutes is usually of little value. Those statutes have been interpreted and applied by courts. Unless you know the statutes and the case law that accompanies them, it is really impossible to apply the law to a given set of facts. (To complicate things even more, statutes have often been interpreted differently by different regional federal courts, called "Circuit Courts." So a given statute may be interpreted differently in different parts of the Country.)

    So, it seems to me that the safest and surest way to prevent the sue of the Church's name in ways that would hurt the Church is to do what the GC has done, however distasteful it may seem.

    The legal system is so very different from the world that the Church operates in that it is probably impossible to reconcile the two completely. What I mean by this is that protecting the Church in a legal sense will necessitate actions that some will find distasteful. But failing to carry them out could, and probably will, have catastrophic legal consequences.

  22. Lawyer Anonymous,

    Yours is an interesting perspective in that you certainly know more law than I know...My question to you is: What are the "catastrophic legal consequences" of not having the trademark?

    Could the GC be legally liable for the work and actions of independent groups that carry the name "Adventist" but are not connected to the "Adventist" church? Are we pursuing this policy for fear of legal consequences or because we don't want the church's name used to promote things that we find objectionable?

  23. Lawyer Anon:

    I haven't heard potential lawsuits as the rationale for this trademarking yet. Is it possible to sue an organization for what a totally unrelated organization does under the same name?

    You have rightly said that the church and the legal world work in separate worlds. But as a pastor, I see one thing I have in common with lawyers: we are both involved in the interpretation of texts. And I also realize that from a practical point of view, how the text is interpreted is more important than what is written.

    The problem comes when the interests of lawyers in arguing for their interpretation conflict with the interests pastors and lay people who have to deal with the broader consequences of decisions made from a legal perspective. I realize that our Office of General Counsel is intent of building the strongest possible case for claiming our name and logo. The problem comes when building this case comes at the expense of our church's public image.

    How does this cost our public image. Commenters have pointed out the following:

    1. The ® makes our church look commercialized.
    2. Trade marking the name "Adventist" makes our church look like it's opposed to free speech and historically disingenuous.
    3. Asking internet ministries to get a license to use the name "Adventist" discourages their outreach.

    There has to be some kind of compromise between the concerns of lawyers and the concerns of those who are carrying forward the mission of the company. The problem with protectionist ideologies is that they ultimately compromise that which they are seeking to protect. If protecting the churches name is our ultimate goal, we will end up with a fossil; and I worry this ® policy is one more step in the process of petrification.

    I have pointed out that successful companies do not always have to display the ® symbol with their products. This would be an example of such a compromise. Not claiming exclusive rights the name Adventist would be another.

    From a pastoral perspective I have another question: Do we trust God to look after our reputation as we carry forward our mission? The world's courts cannot ultimately guarantee the integrity of our name. Let's put our trust in the Judge who promised that "My people will never be put to shame" (Joel 2:27).

  24. A week ago, after the initial comments on this post, mom_3sons remarked to me that the topic was probably closed 8-).

    I would like to add some more information and also a few more ideas:

    1) For those who would like to become better informed on the legal issues regarding the interaction between intellectual property and electronic media, I would highly recommend the extensive body of writing produced over the years by Pamela Samuelson (
    facultyProfile.php?facID=346) - note that I had to break this URL into 2 lines. Old-time Republicans who doubt whether anything good can come out of Berkeley might want to know that many consider UC-Berkeley the finest US law school west of the Mississippi.

    2) A possible motivation for the OGC of GC of SDA registering trademarks on common words like Adventist and (apparently) Ministry might relate to current internet governance practices (please bear with me here if you have not previously been exposed to this topic - if you have then please forgive me for over-simplifying).

    A quasi-public entity called the Internet Corporation (formerly Committee) for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) accredits and regulates internet domain name registrars.

    In the early days of commercial availability of internet domain names, there was a major problem with "cyber-squatters" racing to register domain names that contained or closely mimiced commercial trademarks. The purpose was to be able to ransom them for profit either to the legitimate trademark holders or to potential competitors.

    ICANN responded to the problem of "cyber-squatters" by creating a set of rules for resolving disputes over internet domain names that gives preferential treatment to holders of registered trademarks. There is a well-defined process by which trademark holders can challenge registration of closely related domain names by unauthorized parties.

    More recently ICANN is coming under pressure to address the problem of "reverse cyber-squatters" that use their preferred status to unfairly deny domain names through a variety of means.

    In any case if the underlying trademark is invalidated then the former trademark holder will lose their preferred status for challenging registration of closely related domain names.

    3) The primary purpose for registering and/or enforcing a trademark is to protect an intangible asset called Goodwill. Goodwill is especially important for non-profit, non-commercial enterprises that depend on voluntary support.

    The complementary intangible liability (impairment to Goodwill) is Illwill. I am not aware of any Generally Accepted Accounting Principles for valuation of Illwill - but it can be a very significant, even overwhelming, impairment to Goodwill.

    I totally support the concept that the SDA Church must maximize Goodwill and minimize Illwill wherever possible. However it is important that attempts to protect Goodwill (eg from misrepresentation of who we are and what we teach and practice) do not themselves generate more Illwill than they seek to prevent.

    Those who may doubt the significance of this concept of avoiding unnecessary Illwill in the age of instant electronic publication should carefully consider the outcomes of the Clinton vs Obama campaigns. Obama's team mastered the art of electronically maximizing Goodwill to generate the tangible assets of campaign contributions and delegates, while Clinton's campaign bogged own in Illwill and she was forced to kick in over $11 million of her (and Bill's?) money to stay in the race because her contributions dried up.

    Why is this important to the SDA Church? Albeit for different purposes (I hope!) we use media extensively to help generate both contributions and converts.

    In this regard it is important to understand that the same message conveyed in different media may have a different impact on the Goodwill/Illwill balance if the differences in media are not taken into account in the presentation.

    Which is a long-winded way of saying that while trademark and copyright symbols may create some aura of value in the print media for which they were originally designed, in electronic media they often come across as tacky or tawdry. The result in electronic media often has the effect of devaluing the brand image (a form of Illwill). Given the growing predominance of electronic media, the norm for print media is increasingly being driven from electronic media rather than vice versa.

    4) Matthew 5:14-16, 25 & 7:2, 12 contain excellent guidance for creating Goodwill and avoiding Illwill - the Golden Rule is a very concise formulation of this concept.

    Especially in cyberspace simply applying the Golden Rule can avoid a lot of unnecessary Illwill. Cyberspace especially punishes the appearance of hypocrisy or over-reaching. For example we rightly teach that free speech is necessary for the free exercise of religion (to enable sharing / evangelism / etc).

    If the church intervenes on the side of free speech in some cases (eg religious expression) while acting to suppress free speech in other cases (eg publishing a trademarked symbol for purposes of editorial comment) how does this affect the Goodwill/Illwill balance?

    A time-proven method of defending a trademark while avoiding unnecessary Illwill directly applies the Golden Rule. Many businesses enhance the value of their trademarks by offering to buy-out closely-related names that through no hostile intention of the original user, nevertheless could impair the brand. Many small users will willingly move from the contested name space if their cost of conversion is reimubursed. The result is Goodwill rather than Illwill.

    In their letter to Sherman Cox II did the OGC of GC of SDA offer to reimburse his direct costs for changing his doamin name?

    5) Mark 9:38-40 contains a very interesting precedent regarding trademark infringement and Goodwill.

    "And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out demons in your name, and he does not follow us. And we forbade him because he does not follow us."

    "But Jesus said, Do not forbid him. For there is no one who shall do a work of power in My name who can lightly speak evil of Me."

    "For he who is not against us is for us."

    (cf Modern King James Version which is published on the web and can be downloaded free-of-charge)

  25. Hello dads2sons and others,

    I do not feel exactly comfortable being the posterboy for folks who have had the GC force them to change their name. I would not exactly say that the GC Legal "forced" me to change my name. They wrote me an email informing me of my site being in violation of the GC guidelines. They told me that there was a process where I could apply for the license should I so desire. Perhaps it would have gotten to the point of forcing, but I can't say that...

    I didn't desire to go down that road of fighting or licensing for a few reasons so I changed the name. I figured it would be more trouble than it was worth...especially since I am essentially doing the exact same thing as before only under a different (non-denominational) name...Of course now folks can accuse me of hiding my denominational affiliation...

    To answer the question about possible reimbursement for change of name, the answer is no, but to be fair it didn't get to any point, becauase as I noted above, I changed the name after the first letter because I didn't want to deal with any legal organizations, in church or outside of it...

    One thing that I will say is that GC Legal gave me an extended period of time to transfer over. I was not given an immediate time frame for the change over so I was able to forward the domain. I did lose some Google ranking, but because they gave me this extended period of time, the hit was not as hard as it could have been.

    I don't agree with the policy, but as far as my interaction with the GC legal, I have no complaints. My problem is with the policy and not how I was treated in the implementation of the policy...

  26. Hello All! Attorney Anon here (I like the way that sounds...mysterious, almost like The Shadow or something....)

    As I indicated, I don't practice IP law so I don't know all of the ins and outs of this subject.

    Sherman, regarding your question, at common law an could possibly be held liable if it allows a group to hold itself out as a member of that entity and does nothing about it. There are all kinds of potential agency concerns that could play out differently in every one of the fifty states.

    Regaring the catastrophic consequences...well as I don't know that much about IP law I don't know exactly what they could be in this case. I do know, however, that the legal system is often unforgiving. If you sit on your rights, you can easily lose them. If you allow something to which you object to continue, it and its effects can be charged to you. So, although I don't know the law in this area, the fact that so many people are running around with ministries, etc. labeled "Seventh-day Adventist" outside the control of the Church would give me the heebie-jeebies if I were with GC Counsel's office.

    David your point is an excellent one. There is a balance that must be sought. One can only hope and trust that this decision was the result of much prayer and seeking God's will. If the Church did make a mistake, then let's pray that God will reveal that to be the case and the GC will have the courage to act. At the end of the day, even for lawyers, legal consequences are not and should not be our chief concern. Happily, we do have the advantage of knowing the Judge!

  27. To me Attorney Anon sounds like a support group for recovering lawyers (AA), but that's probably just me projecting. ;)

    Sherman, I appreciate your concern, and it's not my intent to make a martyr out of you on this issue. I cited your website's name change because it was the case I was aware of that illustrated the danger I was pointing out. Now that Jared has brought his case forward we can establish a pattern of this behavior. Therefore, it's not really fair to put you outfront on this issue.

    Commenters, let's respect Sherman's wishes.

  28. If there's not such a group, there should be!

  29. Ms. Parker,

    I appreciate the job you do (though I certainly don't envy it!). Protecting the interests of the Adventist church with so many people like me clamoring for a piece of the Adventist pie, particularly in this internet era, is no small task, I'm sure!

    I also appreciate the need to protect the church name from dilution - is the only (or best) way making "Adventist" a registered trademark?

    With regards to the MySpace site, I didn't mean to suggest that content was removed from the site by church representatives directly, though content was removed, not by me, and I can only assume that it was at the behest of someone from the Adventist Church. That was after I had complied by removing the image that contained copyrighted material, as requested.

    The content that was deleted by someone other than me did not contain anything with the Adventist logo or the word Adventist in it. That, in my view, is the sort of bullying that other commenters have suggested.

    I am sorry to see the church use such heavy-handed methods of projecting / protecting the Adventist brand.

  30. Seems to me the church could trademark "Seventh-day Adventist" but not the term "Adventist."

    As I understand it, the church did sue SDA Kinship over trademark infringement and lost.

    Such a stupid waste of time, energy, and expense!!


  31. List me as well with those who fought the trademarked-name-of-the-church and the trademarked-name-of-the-church won. I had to remove a quasi-logo too. Sigh.

  32. I thought artistic use was allowed under copyright/trademark law....

    That or Warhol must have been way out of line.

  33. Dione Parker (R) is a moron. The term "adventist" can be used by anybody so long as it's not capitalized. I can be "an adventist" or a "non-adventist." Perhaps somebody should legally change their name to "seventh-day adventist" and see what happens.

    You can also use terms like "adventisty" and "adventageous." Are they going to go after people who celebrate the season of advent who call themselves "adventists" who make "adventist" arguments that are "adventisty"?

    What a doofus.

  34. She is not a moron, some people will saying anything in hiding..

    The Problem comes in, and this was pointed out in a recent judgement, where an Organization and it's members have the same name.

    NO LDS says I'm a "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Church" they are Mormons or LDS. We however share the same name as the organization we belong to.

    BTW here is an adventist blogroll registry

    I can understand not using the Church's paid for logo (used our money btw) but it would be nice to have and adventist bloggers logo, and those who use it would agree to a code of standards, it might be hard to define those.

    My name is Stan Jensen
    One of my Forums is

    I have viewed David as being one of the best adventist bloggers out there.

  35. Anon:

    I don't appreciate ad hominem attacks on my blog. Consider this your first warning.

    Also, it seems to me that certain groups like Seventh-day Adventist Kinship and Adventist Today are using (capitalized) "Adventist" with problem at all.


    It seems to me that Mormons are the exceptions rather than the rule. Most believers are identified by a word that is part of the title of an organization associated with their faith (Catholic, Orthodox, Baptist).

    My question in this whole thing regards the "blowback" from aggressive protection of our church's title. Do we really want to drive at the margins of our faith or organization farther away through legal bully tactics? Do we really want to stifle active lay members by making them apply for a license to use their own church's name?

  36. HI David

    Not sure there is a denominational called Baptist or Lutheran

    There is the Southern Baptist Convention,
    Baptist Union of Western Canada

    Lutheran Synod of Missouri
    Evangelical Lutherans of America.

    It has been emotional and spiritually devastating for some, who have given up much to join the adventist church, to be then told they can not have websites promoting adventism by using adventist in their domain name. One woman said a couple of years ago that the trauma caused her to miscarriage.

    A couple of years ago Mark Bishop, an author, and SEO guy, contacted his contacts at CNN etc. to have ADRA put on the list for organizations that can help for Katrina and the horrible Tsunami. He made a website linking to ADRA and worked around the clock contacting members to grab the code off of his site to put on their blogs etc.

    ADRA thanked him for that, he did it all free. Imagine how he felt when he got 'that letter' for the OGC demanding he cease and desist using that domain the helped so many people donate to ADRA. Ask him if he will ever do that again.

    AND yet, at the same time, how do they stop the 'wackier folks' for misrepresenting adventism?

    Tough calls...

  37. Stan:

    In the same way, there's no denomination called "Adventist". And the fact that the Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement and the General Association of Dividian Seventh-day Adventists exist prove that we Seventh-day Adventists don't, historically or legally, own the name "Adventist" (see Julius Nam's comment above).

    Stan, I know from conversations with you that you have had some run-ins with OGC over these issues. Would you care to share your experience here?

  38. You are correct, there is no denomination called Adventist, adventist is for a group of people, generic. THE GC does have it legally trademarked, just not sure how enforceable that is.

    My battle is between a group of folks that I consider good friends, who are trying to enforce denominational policy, and that same policy that I belief is wrong, and not enforceable by law, in most cases.

    It is also my opinion, that a Church Pastor, should be required to have the SDA logo on his/her blog, as well as every church entity, several do not, most of our media VOP etc do not have the Church logo on and they should.

    The so called Creation Seventh-day Adventist Churches biggest problem, again in my opinion, is that they are IMPERSONATING an Adventist Church. The trick people into thinking they are giving to an
    Adventist Church and they are clearly not, by any standards. AND they are burning strange fires in their teachings.

    I have no problem with them proclaiming what ever message they want to proclaim, but they need to use their own name, not ours.

    In the past I have given domain names over to 'the brethren' on their demand, and guess what? They just let them expire for others to pick up and capitalize on the advertising dollars I have dropped to promote them. Some I have bought back like

    AND there are other names that i bought for 'safekeeping' and have transferred them under my own power and suggestion to the Church.

    The thought of them trying to once again force me to turn over names, of sites that previous GC recommended and promoted just makes new born babies cry. I have spend a zillion hours and dollars on aka

    After seeking legal counsel, both Canadian and US, I will not transfer by force, any more domains. I DO HAVE to say, that there is one, I have, that I could be accused of cybersquatting, am not sure that was the case when I bought it.

    AND to make this post longer and more boring, they have never gone after the owner of the domain name and i find that just weird.

    Going back to the first statement, most of the OGC of the GC are people that I know, some a long time. I have also some to realize they have bigger problems than me, and the things I do, I think I have dropped down to the nuisance level.

    I am also aware, that there is few people meaner than long term adventist to other adventist. Fresh new shiny Adventist view this as being silly.

  39. Why is it all my typos show up 2 days later? ;)

  40. Did I kill this with my last post?

  41. I am appalled and sorely vexed by this information. While I understand due to politics there may be a need to have an officially and legally recognized name for the visible organizational entity, I however feel that trying to own and / or stifle the individual use of the very spiritual, descriptive, personal, common, and self-identifying word Adventist is an outright mockery of everything that is and should be Adventist.

    I am a lifelong member of the church and as any such person should, am actively attempting to engage with those members of the community that exist outside of this beloved religious faith. Of course because I believe this to be of God, it is consequently my intention to evangelize and to grow the movement, or in other words - help other people to come to also self identify as Adventist believers.

    Considering the issue that 44% of the American public have not even heard the name of our Christ-focused movement, I would like to point out that in this age of aversion to organized religion, as well as to labels in general, a large percentage of those who do actually come into contact with the name most likely assume a distinction between "Christian" and "Adventist". Consequently even those that are spiritually seeking, may easily dismiss and have little to no reason in thier mind to contemplate possibly identifying themselves as an Adventist, which to them might seem as if to be "INSTEAD OF" starting or continuing on a path of following Christ.

    Unfortunately many don't realize that the word Adventist is simply a description of a true Christ seeker / follower who is so sold out for Christ that he is living in great anticipation of being reunited with Him. In this manner, the apostle Paul himself was an Adventist:

    Titus 2:13
    Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;

    As well as all of the saved at the end of time:

    Isaiah 25:9
    And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

    In otherwords as I understand it, Adventism in concept is simply to be a true expression of Christianity where Christianity has at times not really been Christianity. Let me repeat that the word Adventist is meant to describe the true spiritual ideals of Christianity and Christ's followers for all peoples in all locations and all times.

    So now my question is pointed:

    As people who have been called attention to Revelation 14, we have a wonderful message. We are to preach to the world community outside of our church and let them know that they have been liberated from the Babylon of earthly mediators and teachers and that now simply as basic humans with direct communion with none other than God Himself, they will find their true identity which is in Christ and which is furthermore Adventist in nature in that He desires that they wait patiently in anticipation for His soon Advent. But how can we possibly do this if at the same time we try to force and limit the very meaning and common usage of the word Adventist itself into a kind of commodity or property that a few individuals can own and dole out on some sort of limited access?

    Is this not blasphemy? This can only harm the Advent cause. I am an Adventist. I am a Christian. These words describe my identity through Christ. I am by no means an Adventist®, Christian®, Christ-follower®, or New Creation®, through permission of any external religious organization utilizing the force of a governmental licensing entity. If this is the attitude and direction we want to go down, undoubtedly we will see God's Advent message and movement break free from these walls.

  42. Another option... become a citizen of the new isalnd/nation of Adventistan , it's citizens will be called Adventists

  43. Hello,

    I am the Defendant in the trademark lawsuit styled as General Conference Corporation of Seventh-day Adventists and General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists v. McGill dba Creation Seventh Day Adventist Church, et al. It has been going since 2006, and is now awaiting US Supreme Court approval for hearing.

    I was amazed at the 2003 survey information cited by David at the top of this subject. In our case, the courts have ruled that "Seventh-day Adventist" is NOT considered to be a "religion" by the relevant public.

    In case you are not aware of this lawsuit, I am not surprised since no Adventist publication has dared to let it out. There was one article justifying litigation in the Review, June 2010, that amounts to "damage control" in the event any of the SDA constituency were to stumble onto the occasional news online.

    Oh, just in case you have not considered it, all SDA Church members are Plaintiffs in this case. As I write this, the Court is considering whether to arrest the pastor and one assistant for contempt of court--taking a position of using the name for conscience' sake.

  44. Hello, Walter. I'm an indeed aware of the Creation SDA case and have it in mind when I say that the Adventist Church does have a right to defend the name "Seventh-day Adventist."