The Church of Scientology and the consequences of trade mark registration

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The Church of Scientology is the registered proprietor of a number of US and international trade marks, notably the mark SCIENTOLOGY. The Church has, however, discovered that religion and trade marks do not sit well together in Russia.

The Moscow City Court has ordered the dissolution of the local branch of the Church on the basis that its ownership of trade marks means that the Church is not a religious organisation. Under Russian law, religious organisations must be registered in order to be authorised to carry out their activities. The Russian Government has said that it cannot maintain a registration for the Church because the Church’s trade mark registrations show that the Church is a commercial organisation. The Government’s position is that the Church cannot be simultaneously a religious and a commercial organisation. It says that the appropriate regulatory landscape for the Church is not the religious one but consumer protection law.

The Church of Scientology has said it will appeal against what it calls the “anti-religious” abuse of its parishioners’ rights, claiming that the Russian authorities have long been biased against the Church.

The Church of Scientology is, of course, no stranger to controversy with its detractors arguing that it is more akin to a cult than a true religious organisation. Critics of the Moscow Court’s decision (and the Government’s position) say that the decision is based less on the nuances of trade mark law and more on distrust of the Church.

There is a separate criminal investigation ongoing in Moscow against the Church after hidden microphones and cameras were allegedly found in the Church’s Moscow premises.