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    Posted June 16, 2014 by
    Los Angeles, California

    Respecting Religious Intellectual Property

    The #TakeOffJustLogo campaign is asking Roberto Cavalli to stop using a sacred Sufi trademarked symbol, that belongs to M.T.O. Shahmaghsoudi School of Islamic Sufism, on its Just Cavalli line of products. Everyone knows, taking another’s real property such as a car for example without the owner’s permission is wrong and illegal. The same concept applies to another’s intellectual property, such as a trademark.

    When one organization takes the intellectual property of another organization and calls it their own, they are causing confusion for members of the public. In this case, when Roberto Cavalli took M.T.O.’s trademark and called it their new Just Cavalli logo, this very fact happened. Members of M.T.O. were surprised that their school had allowed the beloved symbol to be placed on perfume bottles and other merchandise by Roberto Cavalli. The students inquired and were informed that in fact no such permission was given and the Roberto Cavalli company was using the school’s symbol without permission.

    For decades M.T.O. has used its trademarked symbol on various different items such as books, posters, websites, clothing, jewelry, to name a few. Thus surprisingly one can find some common characteristics between a religious organization and a fashion house, as both can create symbols and use those symbols on various items to serve as their identifier. Those who admire a religious organization or fashion house, purchase, use and wear various items made by them to show their association and esteem for the designs and the organizations. We all know how popular religious jewelry is throughout all faiths, as practitioners enjoy wearing their religious sacred emblems for various spiritual reasons. Hence, when in this case a fashion house takes a religious emblem and puts it on its own merchandise, great confusion is caused for the general public. Is the fashion house now religious? Or is the religion now partnering with a fashion house?

    Most religious organizations do not want to be seen as partnering with a fashion house. The main purposes of each are much too different, one seeks to create fashion and make profits and another seeks connection with God. Therefore, most religious organizations will make sure they are clearly separated from other organizations since they want to protect their good will and reputation. They will do this by implementing their right to stop the misappropriation of their marks. Further, it is not surprising to see students of a school whose trademarked symbol has been tarnished by a fashion brand to be outraged. Members of an organization have an interest in protecting the goodwill associated with their faith’s symbol as they hold it in high esteem and it can be linked with their spiritual identity.

    M.T.O. has continuously used its symbol, and by so doing it has become known as the schools identifier. The distinctive emblem has various spiritual meanings that portray some of the main teachings of the school, which are the importance of the heart and one’s connection through it to God. Hence, it is imperative that its purity is kept and perpetrators are stopped.

    It is also important to note that the supporters of the #takeoffjustlogo campaign are not saying that Roberto Cavalli should not be able to express himself and to design as he wants to but just like everyone else, his freedom of speech and expression is not unlimited. It is bound by laws, such as those put in place to protect creativity. Lastly, not all religious symbols are trademarked but those that are, cannot be used under the guise of freedom of speech as it does not belong to the people but to the owner.
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