Tuesday, December 24, 2019


There is news to report today concerning the ongoing litigation between the Episcopal Church and its diocese and the disassociated diocese (ADSC).

On yesterday, 23 December, the breakaways filed "Defendants-Appellants' Motion to Stay Injunction and to Stay Case" with the United States Court of Appeals, for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond. In this 33-page paper, the ADSC lawyers asked the Court "to (1) stay this case pending the United States Supreme Court's decision in U.S. Patent & Trademark Office v. Booking.com B.V., No. 19-46 (U.S.), which the Supreme Court will decide this Term, and (2) stay this injunction pending appeal" (p.1).  In other words, the ADSC is asking the Appeals Court to stay (suspend) the Injunction Judge Gergel issued on 19 September (and reaffirmed on 18 December) against the ADSC, and to stay the whole case in the appeals court until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the "Booking.com" case, in 2020.

Recall that Judge Gergel denied ADSC's motion for a stay of his injunction, on 18 December.

In this paper, the ADSC lawyers return to using "Diocese of South Carolina," a term that was explicitly forbidden them by Judge Gergel. They also returned to their claim to history, also blocked by Gergel:  "In 2012, the Diocese of South Carolina (which covered the eastern, or lower, part of the State) eliminated its corporate allegiance to TEC by withdrawing from that unincorporated association." Thus, in this paper, it seems to me the disassociated organization is in violation of Judge Gergel's Injunction of 19 September. 

I am not a lawyer, but the arguments in this paper seem weak to me. In the first place, the federal court has established that "The Episcopal Church" and its variations are federally protected trademarks. ADSC argues that "episcopal" and "church" are generic terms and adding "the" should not matter. Their argument in favor of this is not at all convincing. Besides, I did not see here any strong case that the order of the district court had any flaws in it. It must be shown to be in error for the appeals court to overturn it. As for the case now before the Supreme Court, I do not see any similarity to the church case decided by the U.S. District Court. The "Booking.com" case involved whether an online company can add the term ".com" to a generic word and trademark this. The U.S. Patent Office said it could not. The Fourth U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that it could. That is the issue now before SCOTUS. I do not see any relation to the church case. For more information on the "Booking.com" case, see here .

The Episcopal Church side has until 30 December to reply to yesterday's motion.

It seems to me ADSC's motion of yesterday has no substance either to stay Gergel's orders to to stay the case pending SCOTUS's decision on "bookings.com". I expect the Fourth  Circuit Court of Appeals to dismiss this right away. It appears to me this is another example of ADSC's strategy of deny and delay.