Managing Director of Demas Games, Mark Rees-Andersen, trademarked Opus Dei in Denmark, the cultists having let it expire in 1996. The game was launched in January this year. Less than a month later, the Prelatura sent a threatening letter via their Spanish lawyers, Ungria, claiming that their trademark rights had been infringed, and telling the producers “in order to avoid that this conflict results in legal actions”:
- To immediately cease using the words OPES DEI, alone or with any other word, number or device, or any confusingly similar expression, to distinguish any of your goods or services, or in the advertising of the same.
- To proceed to remove from commerce all existing documentation of any type that alludes to the goods/services that you manufacture and/or market including the words OPUS DEI
- To voluntary [sic] withdraw your Community trademark application No. 7.284.953, your trademark application in Denmark No. VR015809 OPUS DEI: EXISTENCE AFTER RELIGION and domain names including the expression OPUS DEI.
In other words, destroy your entire stock.
As the students had spent a great deal of time and money on the project, they tried to open up a rational dialogue with the litigious biscuit-munchers. Their offer was declined.
To the rescue comes Danish law firm GFK. They offered to defend the game-makers pro bono, believing them to have a strong case which could well serve as a principle case for the future. Indeed, the words “opus dei” have been in common use for centuries, and must surely be in the Public Domain. Plus the trademark held by the religious organisation does not cover its use in the production and marketing of novelty games.
So Dema games will fight on. The first battle will take place here in the UK, where the Catholic cultists have challenged their rights to the domain name opus-dei.co.uk. This looks like it will be an easy victory for the good guys, as a Nominet mediator has assured Rees-Andersen that there have been many previous case-decisions which support them.
There is also a Facebook group you can join.
Opus Dei have had their fingers burnt in trademark disputes before – most amusingly in Chile back in 2005. They tried unsuccessfully to sue a LGBT newspaper for trademark infringement and causing offence. The paper’s name: Opus Gay.
(Hat tip: G&LH Magazine, where this story first broke)