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Ministry files suit over Web sites

Published April 26, 2005 12:51 am

Lighthouse: The group says a pro-LDS foundation is infringing on its trademarks
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2005, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A Salt Lake City organization that is critical of the LDS Church filed suit Monday accusing a pro-Mormon foundation of trademark infringement and unfair competition.

The suit by Utah Lighthouse Ministry Inc. accuses The Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research (FAIR) of registering 13 Internet domain names associated with UTLM, including those of founders Jerald and Sandra Tanner, to create confusion.

The Tanners are former members and longtime critics of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, while FAIR says it is "dedicated to providing well-documented answers to criticisms of LDS [Mormon] doctrine, belief and practice."

The alleged cybersquatting - the practice of registering or using Internet domain names with the intent of profiting from the good will associated with someone else's trademark - takes visitors looking for UTLM publications to a selection of hyperlinks to articles posted on FAIR's Web site instead, the suit contends. In addition, it says, these Internet sites "bear a remarkable resemblance of 'look and feel' to the UTLM Web site."

The ministry's site is utlm.org; FAIR has been using the names fairlds.org and blacklds.org. The names in dispute include utahlighthouseministry.com, utahlighthouseministry.org, sandratanner.com and gerald tanner.com.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court, names as defendants FAIR, which has addresses in New York City and Mesa, Ariz.; FAIR president Scott Gordon of Davis, Calif.; Discovery Computing Inc. of Mesa, which provides Web services to FAIR; and Discovery officers Allen L. Wyatt and Debra M. Wyatt.

The legal action seeks transfer to UTLM of the 13 domain names, which were registered in 2003 and 2004 by Allen Wyatt, and triple the unspecified monetary damages suffered by the ministry.

Wyatt said he has not seen the suit, but contended that viewers could tell the difference between the FAIR and UTLM sites.

"There's no confusion as to whether it's her [Sandra Tanner's] organization or not," he said. "I just grabbed the names because they were available."

However, he acknowledged that he disagrees with the Tanners' position and said taking the domain names is a valid free speech exercise.