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Un-Christian behavior by a "Christian" Web site

Scott Tibbs, July 26, 2003

The author of Cruciformity (James Hooten) recently received an electronic mail that he posted on his blog. Werner J. Meyer, the attorney for Mark Hart of From the Hart Productions told the author to cease and desist use of the term "Bible Geek" on his Website. Meyer further demanded that Mr. Hooten close his e-mail account, biblegeek@msn.com. (That e-mail is quoted below.)

First, it is completely reasonable to request someone cease and desist using a trademarked name on a Web site. Our legal system has protected, though copyright and trademark law, intellectual property. If someone acts in a way that could confuse consumers, an aggrieved party has recourse through the courts. (For further reference, see BitLaw.com, TMS.org, AllBusiness.com, and UNC.edu.) If Mr. Hart has indeed been harmed, there is nothing wrong, legally or morally, to request that the offending activity stop.

However, demanding that someone change his electronic mail address is excessive. Will Meyer send a similar e-mail to the individuals on Yahoo with the usernames biblegeek and bible_geek? What about someone who uses that handle on MSN or EZ Board? It is a common handle, so it is not surprising that "biblegeek" is use as a username around the internet. There is no copyright infringement from someone using the username "biblegeek" with his e-mail account, especially if it is a personal account. Meyer's request would be more reasonable if he asked that biblegeek@msn.com not be used as a public e-mail address. If Meyer expects that his client will monopolize the use of the username "biblegeek", he should be prepared to fight a battle that even Don Quixote would avoid.

Hart and Meyer's decision to threaten Mr. Hooten with a lawsuit in their initial contact with him is decidedly un-Christian. The Apostle Paul scolds the Corinthians for taking each other to court rather than bring the matter before fellow Christians. (See I Corinthians 6:1 and 6:7.) It would have been far better to politely ask him to stop using the handle "Bible Geek" and then take other steps if he refused.

It is especially disturbing that Mr. Meyer described himself as a youth minister. I have to wonder what kind of "church" would have this individual as a minister, given his un-Christian behavior. Ministers are supposed to not only instruct and teach, but to lead by example. The way Mr. Meyer has dealt with a fellow Christian is a poor example. Hart and Meyer should apologize to Mr. Hooten for their behavior and repent of their materialistic attitude.

To Whom It May Concern:

I am the attorney for Mark Hart, d/b/a From the Hart Productions (“FHP”). FHP owns various federal trademark registrations for BIBLE GEEK, including U.S. Registration Numbers 2,680,307 and 2,680,308 (the “Marks”).

I understand that you are using the name “Bible Geek” in connection with the website www.cruciformity.blogspot.com and email address biblegeek@msn.com. Although FHP and I certainly appreciate your efforts to spread the Good News, you are going to have to do so without using the name “Bible Geek.” The use by you of the term “Bible Geek” is causing confusion. To get legal, it also constitutes, among other claims, trademark infringement, misappropriation and unfair competition, entitling FHP to immediate and permanent injunctive relief, as well as monetary damages and attorneys’ fees.

FHP has invested significant time and resources in the Marks, and FHP’s federal registration of the Marks vests FHP with the exclusive right to use the Marks in conjunction with its services.

Again, your efforts are commendable, but you are going to have to discontinue all present and future use of the term “bible geek” in connection with spiritual and theological messages and materials, including, without limitation, the cancellation of the email address biblegeek@msn.com.

I myself am a youth minister at a local Catholic Church (after having been a full-time attorney for many years), and so I appreciate your efforts on behalf of our common Savior. I have known Mark Hart, the principal of FHP, for years, back when he was a youth minister. I hope that this won’t go any further than to require you to confirm in writing to me that you have discontinued all use of the term “bible geek.” If I don’t receive this confirmation by July 31, 2003, FHP reserves the right to commence any action it believes is necessary or appropriate to protect its rights in the Marks, without further notice.

Just to get technical, this letter is a legal instrument and is delivered to you for the purpose of: (1) establishing that your continued use of the term “bible geek” after the date of this letter constitutes willful infringement of FHP’s exclusive rights in the Marks; and (2) making formal demand that you immediately discontinue any use of the term “bible geek.”

Thank you in advance for your prompt attention to this matter, and may God continue to bless you for your ministry and work to build the Kingdom.

Werner J. Meyer