A church’s identity speaks volumes

Sample of the many items that could have a trademark name and logoPhoto by Kenn DixonWhen you hear of trademarks and patents, something that may come to mind are invention and creations at the hands of entrepreneurs. However, churches also have trademarks.

According to the United States Trademark and Patent Officeis one of its statements, “the organization, or company is responsible for policing and protecting its identity with regards to trademark.”


The Patent Office says on its website, “ the owner of a registration is responsible for bringing any legal action to stop a party from using an infringing mark.”

How does a church or religious organization protect its trademark while treating those that infringes or misuse trademarks illegally with brotherly love? How

should a church react to violations by members or other Christian group without being viewed as using the hard arm of the government to fix the problem?

One way in which the protection of a trademark and the practice of brotherly kindness can be seen in a case that started years ago and just concluded.

In July 2012, Adventist News Network published an article about a “pastor” named Walter McGill who was asked to stop using the name “Seventh-day Adventist” on his church the Creation Seventh-day Adventist Church in Guys, Tennessee.

Because “Seventh-day Adventist” is a registered trademark with and can only be used by “official church congregations, entities, institutions, denominational ministries, and certain lay and professional groups as approved by the world church headquarters,” McGill was finally arrested after a long process of asking and the continuous refusing on his part.

Why is the trademark of a church so important that it requires protection?

Elder Terrell McCoy, Executive Secretary for the Southwest Region Conference of Seventh-day Adventist and legal issues spokesperson, says protecting the identity of an organization is important because it cuts down on confusion.

“One of the main reason for protecting a church or religious is to keep down confusion. We are different from other church groups that are around and from time to time, there are people who would arise with some strange belief,” McCoy said.


Sample of the many items that could have a trademark name and logo
Photo by Kenn Dixon

“We make it clear to them about our belief, but they still want to propagate their message as if it were us saying this,” he added.

McCoy went on to say that a symbol or trademark is more than just a name or logo it goes deeper.

“A person can have our trademark and symbol; it encapsulates and speaks for us and says who we are. It is like mislabeling a product with poison. This is misleading and not trust-worthy.  It carries credibility and relays a message of truth to those around us,” says McCoy.


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