Tyler Perry Claims Victory In “What Would Jesus Do” Trademark Row

by T+B Blog Team on July 8, 2014

The USPTO has put an end to a six-year trademark battle over the “What Would Jesus Do” phrase, declaring media mogul Tyler Perry the owner of the saying, rather than reality TV star Kim “Poprah” Kearney, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The roots of the English phrase can be traced back to 1896, and is often seen on t-shirts and bracelets, but it wasn’t until 2008 that someone decided to register it as a trademark for entertainment. The first person who sought to obtain rights to the phrase was Kearney, who filed a trademark application to use it for a Christian reality show in January 2008. Four months later, Tyler Perry Studios lodged an entertainment services trademark request for What Would Jesus Do, seeking to obtain approval to use it for entertainment products such as films, musicals, and a TV series, The Guardian reports. At that time, Perry insisted that he wasn’t trying to gain ownership on the exclusive right to use the name “Jesus” apart from within the phrase “What Would Jesus Do.”

Two years later, Kearney’s mark was published for opposition on grounds that she wasn’t using it. Tyler Perry Studios sought to cancel the mark, asking the USPTO to declare her registration abandoned since it was constraining its own attempts to use it. In the request, the filmmaker alleged that Kearney had yet to produce a TV show in connection with the phrase and that the website for the show had a non-functioning email address.

Kearney consequently contended that she first used the phrase in November 2007 during the initial stages of a production she was attempting to launch, but Perry’s lawyers did “some trademark jujitsu” to invalidate her argument, The Hollywood Reporter stated.

Kearney’s trademark is now pending cancellation on grounds of non-use. What’s the next step? Do you think Perry will begin using the phrase?

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