I've been running the scientology-lies.com domain for about 3 1/2 years now, and despite the inclusion of the word "Scientology" in the name and meta-tags and the inclusion of a few pages where I use fair use quotes of Scientology works, I've never gotten any letters from Helena Kobrin, Ava Paquette, or any of Scientology's other legal representatives.
Recently, though, I registered truthaboutscientology.com, with plans to create a site that would be a little more hospitable to Scientologists who had noticed outpoints within the CoS and were looking for additional information, but who might be put off by the phrase "Scientology Lies" at the top of every page.
Shortly after I registered my domain (before I had added any content other than a single "under construction" page), I got my very first Kobringram (a word coined to refer to one of Ms. Kobrin's many, many, many letters threatening legal action; she has been sanctioned in the past for bringing a frivolous action).
I have reproduced it below, along with my response, for the edification of others who receive cease and desist letters and for the enjoyment of Ms. Kobrin's many fans. My thanks to the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Jeff Lee, from whom I borrowed some of the phrasing in my reply.
I found it interesting that she did send me a paper copy of her letter in addition to the e-mail, and also that the e-mail address she used was not firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or even firstname.lastname@example.org, but rather email@example.com.
If you receive a legal threat from Scientology, you may be interested in the following resources:
- The EFF's Chilling Effects Clearinghouse
- The California Anti-SLAPP Project
- some relevant laws:
December 11, 2001
VIA EMAIL AND U.S. MAIL
2443 Fillmore St., #202
San Francisco, CA 94115
Dear Ms. Wachter:
Our office represents Religious Technology Center ("RTC"), the owner of the federally registered trademark and service mark "SCIENTOLOGY". The mark "SCIENTOLOGY" is registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office under registration numbers 1,775,441; 1,540,928; 1,342,353; 1,329,474; 1,318,717; 1,306,997; and 898018, copies of which are attached. We also represent the Church of Scientology International ("CSI"), which is the licensee of the "Scientology" trademark.
We have been advised that you have registered our client's federally registered trademark "SCIENTOLOGY" in the "truthaboutscientology.com" domain name.
You are hereby on notice that this registration of our client's federally registered trademark has caused your name to be falsely associated with our client's registered mark as owner and creates a likelihood of confusion as to the source or sponsorship of this domain name in violation of United States state and federal law, including the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. $ 1125(a) and various state and federal laws.
In addition, the federally registered trademark, Scientology, is famous, distinctive and unique. The registration of this mark in the "truthaboutscientology.com" domain name dilutes the distinctiveness of the mark in violation of the federal trademark antidilution statute, 15 U.S.C. $ 1125(c) and California's antidilution statute. See, Archdiocese of St. Louis v. Internet Entertainment Group, Inc., 34 F.Supp.2d 1145 (E.D. Mo. 1999); Mattel, Inc. v. Internet dimensions, Inc., 55 U.S.P.Q.2d 1620 (S.D.N.Y. 2000); Deere & Co. v. MTD Products, Inc., 41 F.3d 39, 43 (2nd Cir. 1994).
Accordingly, in the hope that we may resolve this matter amicably, we request that you immediately cease and desist the use of this name and transfer it to our client, CSI.
Very truly yours,
Helena K. Kobrin
MOXON & KOBRIN
3055 WIlshire Blvd., Ste. 900
Los Angeles, CA 90010
Dear Ms. Kobrin,
I am writing in response to your letter of December 11, 2001, in which you claimed that my recently registered Internet domain name, "truthaboutscientology.com", infringed your client's registered trademark, "SCIENTOLOGY."
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; I do not conduct commerce of any kind in connection with this Internet domain.
Furthermore, my use of the word "Scientology" in my domain name 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.
It seems likely to me that you have already reviewed the single page of content at the http://www.truthaboutscientology.com Web site and therefore knew when you sent your letter 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.
I would like to remind you that both Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11 and California Code of Civil Procedure Sec. 425.16 provide for sanctions for litigation undertaken without support in existing law or sufficient evidentiary support. You may rest assured that, should you pursue a legal course of action against me based upon the frivolous claims made in your letter, I will both defend against your claims with all of the means at my disposal and seek appropriate affirmative relief.
I have forwarded information about your letter and my response to the Electronic Frontier Foundation for inclusion in their forthcoming Chilling Effects Clearinghouse site, in hopes that others who may receive similar cease and desist orders from you in the future will be aware of the probability that they are also groundless. I have similarly notified the California Anti-SLAPP Project.
Like you, I hope that we may resolve this matter amicably. In that spirit, I look forward to the absence of any further baseless allegations of infringement from you or your client.
Sincerely, and with my best wishes for a healthy and prosperous 2002,