Assemblies of God wins $6.1 million in trademark infringement suit

The only defense that was presented to a judge in an Internet trademark infringement lawsuit was a letter written by the unrepresented defendants, a California couple who sold religious-themed products to kids, saying they were not counterfeiting items sold by the Assemblies of God.

The federal judge in the case, who rejected the defendants’ letter for failing to deal with the infringement complaint made by the Assemblies of God, awarded the church $6.1 million and granted it the rights to the domain names of more than 30 retail websites that had been operated by the defendants.

Gospel Publishing House carried trademarked “Royal Ranger” clothing, badges and backpacks, which it sold on its website, for kids belonging to the church’s youth club. In its complaint based on the federal Lanham Act that protects intellectual property, the Assemblies of God claimed that six of its original products were being copied and sold over the Internet by the California couple.

The court agreed with religious group’s attorneys that the California business operators knowingly violated the products’ trademarks, which belonged to the Gospel Publishing House, and duplicated it for sale on their own websites. The final ruling by the court was an award split between $4.5 million for trademark infringement damages and the remainder for illegal domain name use and the group’s legal costs.

Initially the Assemblies of God had asked for damages amounting to $2 million for each of the six wrongfully sold products. The court allowed damages of $750,000 per product, which legal professionals say is sizable compared to the $10 to $30 price tags of the individual items in question.

The church now has ownership of the 32 domain names that were created by the defendant.

Source: internetretailer.com, “A religious group wins a $6 million e-commerce trademark case,” Paul Demery, 11 July 2011