When Jonathen Eller attempted to get his dating website, "Mormon Match," off the ground, he encountered an unexpected problem- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, of which he is a member.
The Church's business arm, Intellectual Reserve, Inc., handles its intellectual properties, and it has made numerous trademark claims against Eller for the use of the term "Mormon," reports the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a nonprofit which defends digital civil liberties.
The EFF has submitted an amicus brief to a federal judge on Eller's behalf, which urges the court to quickly resolve the dispute for the sake of the small business, as well as to "help deter future trademark 'bullies' from abusing the legal process solely to deter lawful conduct."
Eller's introduction for Mormon Match, hosted on the URL dateamormon.com, declares:
Let me be the first to welcome you to the future home of Mormon Match! I want you to know that this site is being built by actual LDS singles. Like you, we’re a little worried about the lack of local options in our ward, we’ve already tried the other “LDS” dating sites (not built or maintained by LDS peeps) with only battle scars and creepo stories to show for it, and we aren’t getting any younger!
Indeed, the average marrying age for Mormons has gone up which is perhaps one of the reasons that Eller feels there is a need for his site. LDS men and women are encouraged to date with marriage as the end goal, and there are even single churches in Utah which can help members find like-minded partners with fast-growing congregations. A pastor for a singles church, Robert Norton, told HuffPost Religion reporter Jaweed Kaleem, "When I started in this position three years ago, we had 229 members. Today, we have 800."
Robert Schick, an attorney for Intellectual Reserve Inc., told The Houston Chronicle, "We believe we are well within our rights to protect both the use of the name of the church and the image of the Salt Lake temple and to make clear that the plaintiff's business has no connection whatsoever to the church."
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints' website states, "'The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,' 'Liahona,' 'Book of Mormon,' and 'Mormon' are trademarks of Intellectual Reserve, Inc."
The landing page initially featured a photograph of the temple in Salt Lake City, which has since been removed.
"The name of this service simply describes what it's doing – matching up Mormons," commented EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. "Trademarks are supposed to be used to protect from unfair competition, not to stifle a small business or to control language."
"This case can and should be dismissed now," added EFF Staff Attorney Vera Ranieri. "The specter of expensive litigation shouldn't be a tool used to coerce Internet entrepreneurs and other content creators into succumbing to meritless infringement claims."