‘Porno Jesus’ Can’t Be Trademarked, Appeals Board Rules

Rhett Pardon

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has put its foot down on an entrepreneur’s plan to trademark the name "Porno Jesus" for a line of adult entertainment products.

Last month, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ruled that a trademark-examining attorney was correct in refusing to register the mark, which was to be used in various kinds of adult entertainment, including DVDs, photography and videos.

The "Porno Jesus" mark, according to the attorney’s initial ruling, "consists of or comprises immoral or scandalous matter" and "includes matter which may disparage or bring into contempt or disrepute persons, institutions, beliefs or national symbols.”

The applicant for the "Porno Jesus" mark, Matthew Beck, sought a reversal of the attorney’s decision, arguing that there have been recent “shifting views among Christians on issues including pornography” and that other trademark registrations, including “Hookers for Jesus” and “Redneck Jesus” have been allowed.

Beck’s counsel even submitted as evidence a screenshot of a website devoted to disseminating and supporting Christian pornography, and offering contemporary pornographic video productions marketed toward Christians.

But the appeals board ruled against Beck, stating that because the mark links Jesus with pornography, it may disparage Christian Americans.

"The plain meaning of the terms comprising the mark Porno Jesus, which links Jesus with pornography, supports a finding that the mark may disparage Christian-Americans," Judge Peter Cataldo wrote for the board.

"The connection between Jesus and pornographic or sexually explicit materials engendered by the mark is emphasized in this case inasmuch as the identification of goods indicates that applicant intends to use his mark in connection with sexually explicit materials," he wrote.
"Applicant's argument that other potentially disparaging or otherwise offensive marks consisting in part of the word Jesus have been registered cannot assist him in traversing a refusal to register a disparaging term. It is well-established that even if marks in prior registrations have some characteristics similar to applicant's mark, the USPTO's allowance of such prior registrations does not bind the board."

Adult industry attorney Gregory Piccionelli discusses the issues surrounding immoral and scandalous trademarks in April’s edition of XBIZ World.

View USPTO appeals board ruling