United States: "UHJ" Confusable With "UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE" For Religious Services, Says TTAB

Last Updated: September 5 2019
Article by John L. Welch

The Board's march through the du Pont factors left Applicant without a prayer of avoiding a conclusion of likelihood of confusion between Applicant's mark UHJ and Opposer's mark UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE, both for religious services. The National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States v. Second International Baha'i Council, Opposition No. 91173793 (August 22, 2019) [not precedential] (Opinion by Judge Karen Kuhlke).

Seat of the Universal House of Justice, Haifa, Israel

Opposer is the sole "national representative of the Baha'i Administrative Order" in the United States. The Universal House of Justice is the head of the Baha'i and is composed of nine members elected by the National Spiritual Assemblies of the Baha'is around the world. Applicant and its founder have never been affiliated with Opposer.

The Board found that, not only did the services of the parties overlap, but the publications and pamphlets (covered by Opposer's pleaded registration) are also related to Applicant's "evangelical and ministerial services." Moreover, the channels of trade and classes of consumers overlap.

One factor pointed in Applicant's favor: its services "inherently indicate some level of care in the ultimate user or adopter of such services."

As to the strength of Opposer's mark, the Board noted that for likelihood of confusion purposes, it must look to the relevant consumers of the goods and services (people interested in the Baha'i faith), not the general public [unlike fame for dilution purposes - ed.]. The Board found the mark THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE to be famous for both publications and religious services, and to be entitled to a broad scope of protection. There was no evidence of third-party use of Opposer's Mark.

Turning to a comparison of the marks, the Board found that relevant consumers will refer to Opposer's goods and services as UHJ because they will shorten the longer mark. Opposer's testimony and an expert survey confirmed that consumers assume a connection between the mark UHJ and Opposer. The record also included Applicant's "deemed admissions" (it failed to respond to admission requests) that UHJ is synonymous with THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE and that Applicant intended people to associate UHJ with UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE.

The Board found that the identity in meaning between the two marks outweighed the differences in sound and appearance, and so this du Pont weighed in favor of Opposer.

Opposer submitted evidence of actual confusion, but the Board found the incidents "attenuated and vague." As to Applicant's intent, Opposer pointed to a statement at Applicant's website that it is "The Official Website of the Universal House of Justice," and to its depiction of the "Shrine of Bab." The Board concluded that Applicant believes it is the proper representative of the UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE, but it was not clear that Applicant intended to confuse consumers into believing that it was Opposer "rather than to present itself as the correct representative of the UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE."

Balancing the relevant factors, the Board found confusion likely and it sustained the opposition.

The TTABlog

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