July 08, 2014

Poprah v. Madea- "What Would Jesus Do?"

by Guest Blogger


This could easily be a piece about how odd it is that someone just used a portion of the zillions of dollars they made cross-dressing as an elderly woman to get federal trademark protection for the name of whom many believe to be the Son of God. But it's not. This piece is about why a reality star who calls herself "Poprah" DIDN'T get federal trademark protection for the name of whom many believe to be the Son of God. And, that is because of what trademarks are and what they are not.

So, here's the story. A hundred years ago, in 2008, Kim "Poprah" Kearney filed a trademark application for "What Would Jesus Do?" for use for a TV show. Ms. Poprah's claim to fame is her appearance in the VH1 reality show, "I Want to Work for Diddy". [Note to Dads: Diddy is one of the nicknames for Sean Combs, a rapper/business mogul who also makes the "Sean John" ties your kids get you from TJ Maxx for Father's Day every year.] A few months later, Tyler Perry, of "Madea" fame, filed an application for the same trademark for use in conjunction with pretty much the same thing. Poprah argued that Tyler Perry got the idea for the name of the show after she pitched to him. A battle ensued over the use of "What Would Jesus Do?" (which is something Jesus wouldn't do) that just ended with Madea's victory over Poprah.

But why? It was, after all, Poprah's (incredibly terrible) idea to use Jesus's name for a TV show. And, if you choose to believe Poprah over Madea (why wouldn't you?), he "stole" the idea to name the show from her. But, trademarks do not protect ideas. Trademarks protect words, symbols, etc. that designate the source of goods and services. Poprah's mistake was that she never used the name to designate the source of any goods or services, because she never made the TV show. Moral of the story: it can't be a trademark if it isn't used as a trademark.

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