Trademark Law

Victory Outreach accuses Twitter of trademark infringement

The international ministry, Victory Outreach International, has accused Twitter of contributing to the infringement of its trademark rights by refusing to delete the username @VICTORYOUTREACH. The civil action has been brought before a court in Missouri USA.

Victory Outreach accuses Twitter of trademark infringement © ascain64 - Fotolia

Victory Outreach accuses Twitter of trademark infringement © ascain64 – Fotolia

Background

Victory Outreach International is an international ministry with a network of churches across the USA and around the world. In 1981 the ministry registered the trade name “Victory Outreach” with the US Patent and Trademark Office.

In 2010 the organisation “Victory Outreach Ministries Church” (VOMC) filed its intent to use the trademark Victory Outreach. The Patent and Trademark Office refused to register this trademark due to the already existing rights of Victory Outreach International.

Despite having been made aware of the ministry’s existing trademark rights, VOMC continued to use the name Victory Outreach. This is evidenced by the advertising literature, the website and the signs used by VOMC.

VOMC also registered the username “@VICTORYOUTREACH” on the messaging service Twitter.

Warning letter

Victory Outreach International saw a clear breach of its trademark rights through VOMC’s actions. According to the ministry, there exists are strong chance of confusion between itself and VOMC.

The ministry therefore sent two warning letters unsuccessfully requiring VOMC to cease and desist. Twitter was also informed that VOMC’s username breached Victory Outreach’s trademark rights.

Twitter refused to delete the username or transfer it to Victory Outreach International, stating that the messaging service does not operate a policy of reserving usernames.

Contributory trademark infringement by Twitter

In response, Victory Outreach brought a claim against VOMC and Twitter.

In the particulars of claim, Victory Outreach argues that VOMC continues to breach its trademark rights, despite having knowledge of the breach and despite receiving two warning letters.

Victory Outreach also asserts that Twitter has both knowledge of the trademark infringement and control over usernames. The ministry therefore argues that by refusing to delete the offending username, Twitter is contributing to the trademark infringement.

Injunction

Victory Outreach is asking the court to grant an injunction preventing VOMC or Twitter from continuing to infringe its trademark rights. The organisation is also seeking compensation and legal costs.

Christian Solmecke is a partner at the law firm WILDE BEUGER SOLMECKE. He is the author of numerous legal publications in the area of internet and IT law. He is also an associate lecturer for social media law at the Cologne University of Applied Sciences.

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