Universal Life Church Case Law
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Universal Life Church wins Summary Judgment Against The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God

August 15th, 2017

On August 8th, The Universal Life Church Ministries based in Seattle, WA, won a significant legal battle in a court case brought against us by the Universal Church, based in New York. The Universal Church sued the ULCM organization for trademark infringement, among other claims. The US District Court decided in favor of the Universal Life Church Ministries, finding that the terms “Universal Church” and “The Universal Church” are generic terms, and that even if they were not, there is no general confusion between these two churches that provide entirely different services.

The Universal Church based in New York has several physical places of worship that offer spiritual services to their members. While legally independent, it is spiritually affiliated with the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG), a Brazilian mega-church with millions of members. According to Wikipedia, The UCKG has frequently been accused of illegal activities and corruption, including money laundering, charlatanism, and witchcraft, and intolerance towards other religions…there have been accusations that the Church extracts money from poor members for the benefit of its leaders.”

The Universal Life Church, maintains a Seattle Rectory which officiates celebrations and services, besides having a Media and Fulfillment center in Seattle’s SoDo District. In addition, it offers free online ordinations so that its members can perform weddings and other religious ceremonies, recognizes the importance of maintaining open hearts and minds, and embraces any individual, no matter his or her spiritual background, calling on them to “do only that which is right.”

The District Court found that the term “universal” is generic as applied to churches, so its use of said term is not infringing on any trademark. Indeed, the ULCM provided evidence that “universal” is understood as referring to the entire Christian Church or all Christians collectively, especially within the Roman Catholic Church, “universal” has been used in this sense for  hundreds or even thousands of years, and numerous churches use “universal” and “universal church” in their name.

Moreover, the Court found that there is no evidence the general public thinks of the specific Universal Church based in New York when it hears the term “universal church,” but rather simply a type of church that considers itself to be universal. That, combined with the fact that the two organizations offer very different services and have very different philosophies, meant that the Court found there was no likelihood of confusion between the two organizations, and found no evidence that anyone purchasing an online ordination from the Universal Life Church Monastery was confused about its use of the term “universal church.”

The Universal Life Church could not have asked for a better result in this case. The ULCM was ultimately vindicated in in its quest to prove that “universal church” is a generic term that anyone has a right to utilize. In so doing, the ULCM greatly furthered one of its core tenets: that every individual is free to practice their religion in the manner of their choosing, as mandated by the First Amendment, so long as that expression does not impinge upon the rights or freedoms of others and is in accordance with the government’s laws. Now, the ULC can get back to the important work of championing religious freedom, social justice and spiritual expression!

Link to Detail of the Case HERE


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