WHAT, IN THE NAME OF GOD, …?: Intellectual Property Rights in Holy Names, Sacred Words, & Other Aspects of Creation

ILN IP Insider

James P. Flynn, Managing Director of the Firm and Member in the Litigation and Employment, Labor & Workforce Management practices, in the firm’s Newark office, authored an article in ILN IP Insider, titled “WHAT, IN THE NAME OF GOD, …?: Intellectual Property Rights in Holy Names, Sacred Words, & Other Aspects of Creation.”

Following is an excerpt:

The title of this piece tracks a common “phrase of exasperation used to emphasize a question or statement.”  If that be the case, and I think it is, then the subtitle implies the question this piece will address.  That question is “how have various countries’ intellectual property laws addressed efforts to copyright, trademark, or patent holy names, sacred words, or outputs of creation?”  The title, of course, also is a bit of play on words, as it asks the question more directly “what intellectual property rights are out there that people can acquire ‘in the name of God’?” That can mean rights to the name (or one of the names) itself.  It can also mean as the proxy or substitute holder of rights here on earth because no spiritual being will receive a copyright certificate, trademark registrations, or letters patent.  So a lot is implied in, or possible from, the title (as is often my intent on this blog).

This author’s interest in the topic was rekindled by a recent article asking whether a movie studio would make copyright claims to control the Norse mythology of the trickster god Loki, and another article concerning a lawsuit against the Vatican concerning a newly-issued papal postage stamp depicting an angel as found in local street art outside the Vatican.  But it runs deeper and further back for this author, and provides for a broader discussion, as it seems to be an issue many countries have addressed, differently, as my research here has revealed.

Before jumping into comparative law issues, one should note that these questions are ones of concern beyond lawyers, and have much greater practical importance than “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?”  That is because religion is big business, as the Washington Post noted in detailing a 2016 empirical study on the socio-economic contribution of religion to American society. …