Yuup… you read right! Media mogul Tyler Perry is now the proud owner of the phrase ‘What Would Jesus Do?’
Perry won the war for ownership but not the battle now that he’s being accused of intellectual property theft. Oddly enough, the other side in this bout is Kimberly Kearney, aka “Poprah” from the VH1 series, ‘I Want to Work for Diddy’.
In May 2008, Perry registered the mark in the category of entertainment services, mentioning in his filing live concerts, a TV program and motion pictures. He included a disclaimer that he wasn’t attempting ownership on the exclusive right to use “Jesus” apart from “What Would Jesus Do.”
In essence, Perry beat Poprah to the punch and he now owns the phrase she created.
More details below…
Tyler and his bulk of cash somehow managed to win a court battle over the trade mark phrase ‘What Would Jesus Do,’ which according to several online sources, had been originally filed previously by Kimberly Kearney.
For the record, the Patent and Trade Mark Office doesn’t really care who came up with the phrase first, therefore the person who gets the correct paperwork through wins. According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office website, Perry is now the owner of the mark despite Kearney filing before he did.
According the the Hollywood Reporter:
When [Kearney’s] “What Would Jesus Do” mark was then published for opposition two years later, Tyler Perry Studios stepped forward to cancel it. Although Kearney had included in her registration a print-out of a web page calling for auditions on her show, Perry’s reps said that she wasn’t really using the mark. Perry demanded that the Trademark Office declare her registration abandoned as it was blocking his own attempts to turf out “What Would Jesus Do.”
In subsequent papers at the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, Kearney attempted to make the case that she first used the mark in November 2007, and during the initial stage of production, she “shared her television program and title with Tyler Perry Studios” and that “not many months after sharing this program and soliciting [Perry] for financial support of this program, [Perry] filed to register this mark; consequently, eventually resulting in this cancellation proceeding.”
But that hardly mattered thanks to some trademark jujitsu on the part of Perry’s attorneys.
They requested the admission of certain facts by Kearney — that she admit she hadn’t produced a television show in connection with “What Would Jesus Do,” that she hadn’t sold one, that she didn’t intend to do so nor had taken any meetings for such a show.
“Because [Kearney] did not timely answer [Perry]’s Requests for Admission, the facts included are deemed admitted and are ‘conclusively established,'” wrote administrative judges in an opinion cancelling Kearney’s trademark that was handed down last month and has just been promulgated. “Despite Respondent’s denials in her answer to [Perry’s] petition, the deemed admissions supersede those denials and we are bound by them.”
The judges also note Kearney’s claims that Perry stole her “What Would Jesus Do” idea, but says that even if it was enough to support use or be a defense of unclean hands, “these allegations are unsupported and we may not adduce any facts from them.”
Perry clearly seized the opportunity to cash in on the phrase as anyone would. Ms.Kearney is reportedly still battling the issue with Tyler Perry Studio staff.
Kearney feels that Perry is using his power in the industry to not only steal her famous phrase, but she accused him of blocking her from getting her TV show produced as a result of the dispute.
It’s all an interesting dilemma, but situations like these happen often.
What do you think of Perry’s decision to trademark ‘WWJD’?
Do you feel Perry owes Kearney anything for the famous phrase?