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Scientology threatens to sue me

Here's a piece of email I received from one of the many law firms engaged by Scientology (and paid for with tax-free dollars) to carry out their program of intimidation through litigation.

(Hostname of sender's personal email address deleted, at her request.
However, it was at a relatively major ISP founded by a Scientologist.)

From: chaosqueen@xxxxxxxxx.xxx
Date: Thu, 09 Jul 1998 14:00:22 -0700
To: shipbrk@gate.net
CC: abuse@gate.net
Subject: Demand to Immediately Cease and Desist

July 8, 1998

Thomas M. Small
Direct Dial:  (310) 209-4404

Mr. Jeff Lee
8202 Pennywell Place
Tampa, Florida 33615-1625

				Re:	Unauthorized Use of Scientology
					Symbol Registered Trademark     

Dear Mr. Lee:

     We represent Religious Technology Center ("RTC") and Church of
Scientology International ("CSI"), both of Los Angeles, California, in
trademark and related matters.  RTC is the owner of the trademarks used
by Church of Scientology, including the Scientology Symbol ("S" and
double triangle) shown on the attached photocopy taken from your web

     For your information, we enclose copies of the federal registrations
of the Scientology Symbol trademark in the United States.  Corresponding
trademark registrations exist in most foreign countries throughout the
world.  There is no question that this symbol is a very well known

     On behalf of our clients, we hereby give you formal notice of our
clients' rights in this trademark, and demand that you immediately cease
and desist from all unauthorized use of this trademark.  This will
include removal of this trademark from your web page and assurances that
you will refrain from all future unauthorized use of this trademark.

     Your immediate response and removal of this symbol are required.  If
we have not received your response by July 15, 1998 with assurance of
your immediate compliance, our client will be compelled to consider
litigation to protect its rights.

					Very truly yours,

					Thomas M. Small


  EIGHTEENTH FLOOR           TELEPHONE: (310) 209-4400        
  10940 WILSHIRE BLVD        CABLE: SLK MARK TELEX: 49616151  
  LOS ANGELES, CA 90024-3945 FACSIMILE: (310) 209-4450        

Given the originating email address -- not to mention a number of other inconsistencies -- I was fairly skeptical about the identity of the sender and the veracity of the email.

This, therefore, was my response:

Date: Thu, 09 Jul 1998 19:59:55 -0400
To: slk@slklaw.com
From: Jeff Lee 
Subject: Re: Demand to Immediately Cease and Desist
Cc: chaosqueen@xxxxxxxxx.xxx, abuse@gate.net, shipbrk@gate.net

To: Thomas M. Small, Esq.


I received the following piece of email (reproduced below with all
original headers), which purports to have originated from your office
(and, more specifically, from you personally).  I notice a number of
irregularities, so I forward the message to you for clarification
and/or rectification.

 1) The message appears to have been sent from the email address
    "chaosqueen@xxxxxxxxx.xxx", though this appears to be forged,
    since it is not SLK@SLKLAW.COM, the email address listed in the
    signature, and xxxxxxxxx.xxx does not appear in the "Received:"
    headers; in any case, I cannot believe that any legitimate law
    firm would send email from an account named "chaosqueen" if it
    expects to be taken seriously.

 2) The physical address given, 8202 Pennywell Place, is not and has
    never been my address.  I am perfectly aware that your client, the
    Church of Scientology International, is in possession of my actual
    address, as I was paid a personal visit by Mr. John Carmichael, the
    Vice President of Scientology in New York, on two evenings in early
    March last year.  It therefore strikes me as highly suspicious, not
    to mention rather careless, that the physical copy of this letter,
    which purports to contain the legal documents necessary for me to
    evaluate your claims, would be sent to the incorrect address.

 3) Previous threatening letters from Scientology attorneys to the
    owners of Web pages critical of Scientology have been diligent in
    reproducing the URLs (Uniform Resource Locators, or "Web addresses")
    of the pages in question.  No such URL is present in the attached
    email, which adds to my doubts concerning to its authenticity.

If the attached email is indeed legitimate, I urge you to send a legal
copy of your cease-and-desist request, including the URL(s) of the
page(s) in question, via US mail to my *proper* address, so that I may
study the promised copies of the federal trademark registrations, and
give the matter my full attention.

If you intend to send this letter via registered mail, I heartily
suggest you send it to my business address, which I believe is also in
the possession of your client, so that I may attend to the matter with
a minimum of delay.  If your client is incapable of providing you with
the correct addresses, please contact me from your law firm's legitimate
email address and I will be happy to provide you with them.


                                                    Jeff Lee

(Included copy of original email not shown.)

And this was my response after receiving the physical copy of the letter (surprise, they had my correct address after all):

                                               Jeffrey S. Lee
                                               (address removed)
                                               Tampa, FL 33615-4545

                                               15 July 1998

Thomas M. Small, Esq.
Small Larkin & Kiddé, LLP
Eighteenth Floor
10940 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90024-3945

Dear Mr. Small:

   I am in receipt of your letter dated 10 July 1998, ordering me to
cease and desist use of your clients' trademark on my personal Web
pages, namely, the S-and-double-triangle logo of Church of Scientology
International and Religious Technology Center.

   While the supporting documentation you enclosed appears to be
irregular -- you represented it as a federal trademark registration
certificate, yet it does not bear the signature of the Commissioner of
the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, as described in 15 USC §1057(a) --
I accept your claim that said mark has been entered in the principal
register as the property of one of your clients, namely Religious
Technology Center.

   However, I must dispute your assertion that my "unauthorized use of
this trademark" requires immediate removal.

   The Lanham Act clearly sets forth the terms required for use of a
trademark to be found infringing; under §32 (15 USC §1114), it is
expressly stated that use in commerce is required for such a claim.
My Web site does not offer for sale or distribution any products or
services, whether in conjunction with the Scientology-related Web pages
or otherwise; it does not apply the trademark or service mark to goods
or services other than the Church of Scientology (indeed, its presence
is to reinforce the fact that it is your client which is discussed by
my Web pages).

   Furthermore, my use of your clients' trademark (or, more properly,
service mark) is expressly protected from claims of dilution by 15 USC
§1125(c)(4)(B) and (C), which respectively state that noncommercial use
of a mark, and all forms of news reporting and news commentary, shall
not be actionable under the anti-dilution statutes.

   As the attorney handling this matter, Ms. Jodi Sax, has indicated to
me that she has viewed my Web site, and furthermore the documentation
sent to me appears to have been printed from your law firm rather than
by your clients, it is evident that your firm has had ample opportunity
to discover that my site is non-commercial in nature, and any potential
litigation undertaken against me by your firm must obviously be done
with full knowledge that any claims of infringement or dilution are
completely without merit.


                                               Jeffrey S. Lee


They sent a second letter threatening me under Florida trademark anti-dilution statutes, which make no explicit provision for fair use. I'll put it up on this page if I ever find it again.

I don't know where Ms. Sax got her law degree, or the quality of their courses in Constitutional Law, but (assuming she takes seriously the duties of an attorney as an officer of the Court, and wasn't engaging in misrepresentation of the law in an attempt to coerce me), I find it difficult to understand why she, having presumably passed the bar, would be unaware that Article VI, §2 of the United States Constitution makes it quite clear that state laws cannot abrogate a right guaranteed by Federal law.[1]

While I was researching the law, I temporarily removed the offending logo and replaced it with one which combined the protections of the Lanham Act with the greater First Amendment protections afforded to parodies - changing the "S and double triangle logo" into a "dollar sign and double triangle logo". Ultimately, I decided that it was actually more effective than the original logo (as it contained within itself an allusion to the financially rapacious nature of Scientology), so even though I had every right under the law to put the original back, I decided to keep the new one.

[1] Yes, that paragraph was rife with sarcasm; I know full well that lawyers quite commonly misrepresent the law, especially in cease-and-desist letters, in an attempt to frighten the recipient away from doing something they actually have every right to do. Ms. Sax herself even acknowledged as much in a newspaper article: "I think [Victoria's Secret's] claims are flimsy at best, typical lawyer scare tactics." Lawyers apparently have no moral problem with lying about the law if it will serve their clients' ends. (And they wonder why their profession isn't very well respected?)

This page is maintained by Jeff Lee <godfrey@shipbrook.net>
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