A federal judge on Monday dismissed a lawsuit by an anti-Mormon group that accused a pro-Mormon foundation of trademark infringement and unfair competition.
U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball ruled that a Web site purportedly set up for The Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research (FAIR) was a parody and visitors could recognize immediately that it did not belong to Utah Lighthouse Ministry, a Salt Lake City-based organization that is critical of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The FAIR Web site could be reached through 10 domain names – including utahlighthouse.com and utahlighthouse.org – and responded to criticisms of the church.
Lighthouse Ministry founders Jerald and Sandra Tanner, former members and longtime critics of the LDS Church, said in their 2005 suit that FAIR had registered 13 domain names associated with their organization. Because these domain names linked to an Internet page that had a “remarkable resemblance” to the Lighthouse site, viewers were confused, the Tanners alleged.
Their suit sought unspecified monetary damages and transfer to Lighthouse of the domain names. Named as defendants were FAIR, which has addresses in New York City and Mesa, Ariz.; Discovery Computing Inc., a Mesa company that created the Web sites at issue; and officials with both groups.
FAIR contended that the domain names were registered and the parody site was created without its knowledge by Allen Wyatt, a Discovery principal. The group only learned about the site four months after its creation.
In his ruling, Kimball rejected the claim that FAIR was cybersquatting, the practice of registering domain names to profit from the goodwill associated with someone else’s trademark or to extort payment by selling the name to the owner of the trademark. He pointed out that none of the allegedly infringed trademarks were registered by Lighthouse at the time they were used by the pro-LDS group.
Lighthouse also admitted in court documents that it knew Discovery Computing would have given it the domain names had it asked, Kimball wrote. And in fact, the judge said, the names already have been transferred to Lighthouse.