Monday, May 4, 2020


The Supreme Court of the United States live-streamed a hearing today for the first time in history. It is audio-only. Find it here (the hearing starts 30 minutes in) . This is also important because the case at hand is Patent & Trademarks v. This is the case that the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina was counting on to settle its claim concerning the issue of trademark. In its petition to the U.S. Court of Appeals for a stay of Judge Gergel's order, ADSC argued that the court should wait until SCOTUS decided the case before rendering a judgment on the church case. The Court of Appeals rejected ADSC's petition for a stay.

As I see it, the issues in the church case and the case are not the same. The ADSC claims, as it just did again in its brief last week to the Appeals Court, that "episcopal church" is a generic term and therefore the (disassociated) Diocese of South Carolina could not have been in violation of infringement on trademark. The Episcopal Church side argues that the Church legally, officially registered this and similar terms in 2007 as federal trademarks in the Patent and Trademark Office and anyone else using them would be in violation of the Lanham Act that protects federally registered trademarks. Thus, any assertion that "episcopal church" is generic has no substance in law. Judge Gergel issued a decision last September that completely agreed with the Episcopal Church position. 

The issue in is not the same. In this case, a company asked the Patent and Trademarks Office of the federal government to give the company a trademark for the term "". The Office denied the request saying it could not trademark a generic word even if ".com" were added on to it. The company appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court which heard oral arguments today. The issue today is whether ".com" changes the nature of a generic word so that it can be trademarked. That is not the issue in the church case. Thus, in my view the case has no relevance to the proceedings of the church case that is now in the U.S. Court of Appeals. As I have said, odds are strong the appeals court will uphold Judge Gergel's sweeping decision in favor of the Episcopal Church.

As for the hearing today, whatever SCOTUS decides about adding ".com" and trademarks is irrelevant to the litigation between the disassociated party in SC and the Episcopal Church. ADSC's claim about the case is grasping at straws in a rapidly disintegrating course of litigation that they themselves started more than seven years ago. ADSC lost the big issues in court. It is only a matter of time before the Episcopal Church diocese recovers the 29 parishes, the Camp, and the other properties and assets the courts have awarded to it.