Believe it or not, Jesus has been trademarked. Not the image of Jesus, just the name itself…oh, and His line of clothing and sportswear. Back in 2007, after an eight-year crusade to secure the rights to “Jesus,” the US Patent and Trademark Office granted apparel company Jesus Jeans the exclusive rights to His name in the United States.
Since securing His name as its own, Jesus Jeans’ parent company, BasicNet, hasn’t been as pious as perhaps the Jesus we know and love would have been. They have repeatedly challenged many companies who looked to profit from their trademark. Brands like “Jesus First,” “Jesus Couture” and “Sweet Jesus” all abandoned their trademark applications after being contacted by Jesus’ owners.
Most recently, two small start-ups in the States have found themselves targets of Jesus Jeans’ attempts to maintain full control over their trademark. Michael Julius Anton, founder of the “Jesus Surfed” t-shirt and surf accessory line was contacted by BasicNet asking him to abandon his trademark application. The email read: "If you do not agree, then Jesus Jeans reserves its right to an accounting/damages and all other appropriate relief with respect to your trademark and trademark application." Christian-themed t-shirt company “Jesus Up” is currently in settlement talks with Jesus Jeans regarding owner Jeff Lamont’s attempt to trademark the “Jesus Up” name. In response to their reaction, Mr. Lamont commented, "How anyone can claim the name Jesus for themselves and put a trademark on it is beyond me."
Luckily for churches across America who may want to produce some Jesus themed t-shirts for fundraising efforts or various events, BasicNet has explained that they will not pursue them for damages. BasicNet’s General Counsel for intellectual property stated “If somebody – a small church or even a big church – wants to use ‘Jesus’ for printing a few t-shirts, we don’t care.”
Outside the states, BasicNet’s attempts to trademark “Jesus” have met some challenges. Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey, China, Tajikistan, Australia, Cuba, Norway and the UK have refused. In 2003, in response to Jesus Jeans’ trademark application, the UK's patent office rejected it on grounds that it was "morally offensive to the public." Despite these setbacks, BasicNet successfully registered "Jesus" through the European Union as a "Community Trademark" thus securing “Jesus” for their own far beyond the American market.
Not well-known in the American apparel market, Jesus Jeans has plans to increase US distribution after having recently relaunched the brand in Italy roughly 25 years after it dropped into obscurity following the death of its founder in 1987. BasicNet’s acquisition of the brand in the 90s lead to a complete overhaul of Jesus Jeans’ original image. Once denounced by the Catholic Church for its 1970s advertisements featuring the back of a woman wearing jeans with the tagline "He who loves me follows me," Jesus Jeans’ 2011 relaunch attempted to link the brand with ideas of “peace” and “solidarity.”