The U.S.-based Gideons International has won a trademark dispute against its former U.K. branch that must now change its name.
In late November, the U.K.'s Intellectual Property Office ruled in favor of Gideons International when it opposed the effort of GideonsUK to trademark their name.
The decision concluded that the U.K. branch’s view that it held some claim to the Gideons name was a “mistaken belief” and done without properly informing Gideons International.
“The application for a trademark was clearly made without the consent of the proprietor of the earlier mark and the reasons that the applicant has given for its action do not, in my mind, constitute a legitimate reason to justify the action,” read the decision.
In addition to having their trademark request rejected, GideonsUK was ordered to pay Gideons International $3,290 (£2,500) for the costs stemming from the litigation.
In comments emailed to The Christian Post earlier this week, Gideons International Executive Director Dan Heighway said he was “pleased that the U.K. Intellectual Property Office upheld the trademark law that exists to protect our name and emblem.”
“Having just learned of the IPO decision, our leadership will be considering next steps for the continued ministry of The Gideons International in the U.K.,” he added.
GideonsUK member Eddie Martin told the U.K.-based Christian publication Premier that he was already looking past the IPO decision.
“Yes, there will be some people who have been Gideons for many years who will be very sad to lose the name, but that's not the main point,” Martin told Premier. “The main point is that we want to get the Word of God where we can get it out, and if a different name helps that then that's good, not bad. So I'm not too worried about that.”
Formerly known as The Gideons International in the British Isles, the group was removed from the international organization in 2018.
At issue was a decision by the U.K. branch to allow full membership to women, which went against the constitution of Gideons International.
In June 2018, GideonsUK attempted to register its name and trademark but was challenged a few months later by Gideons International in September 2018. The hearing was held on Oct. 22.
Martin told Premier that he believes one of the positives of having to change their name is they would become “more acceptable because we have had a reputation of being sexist and we don't want that.”
In response to the claim of sexism, Heighway reiterated to CP that Gideons International was founded specifically as “a traveling Christian men’s association” comprised of Christian business and professional men, with our wives alongside us as members of the Auxiliary of The Gideons International.”
“We believe God is still calling us to challenge Christian business and professional men to rise up and lead with integrity, to influence our homes, workplaces, churches, and communities to reach the lost for Christ, and to put their faith into action to share the Gospel with the world,” Heighway said.