Favorable and Unfavorable Court Rulings in URANTIA Foundation vs. Maaherra
The judge of the federal district court for the district of Arizona in the Maaherra case has ruled against URANTIA Foundation on the validity of the copyright renewal. We shall appeal this decision, so the final ruling will not be made for at least twelve months, possibly longer. The decision against the Foundation was based on the judge's interpretation, which we believe to be erroneous, of the applicable law and the unusual facts of the case. However, the final interpretation will ultimately be made by a panel of three judges of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. These judges will review the lower court's decision de novo, which means that they will review the entire record of the case and draw their own legal conclusions. They will not be bound by the lower court's opinions and will not be required to give any deference to them. Until the higher court decides any issues brought up on appeal, the lower court's decisions are not final and the validity of the copyright is not finally determined. We found the lower court judge's ruling surprising in its treatment of the facts and the relevant law. As a result, we are confident that we shall prevail on appeal in the higher level court. Nonetheless, if the adverse decision is not eventually overturned, the Foundation will not be able to enforce its copyright in the future. Without getting into the details of this complicated case, we are now at work on the appeal.
On virtually all the issues, other than copyright, the judge ruled in favor of the Foundation, thus settling major issues without the need for a trial by jury. These favorable judgments include the rejection of Maaherra's First Amendment arguments (from the American Constitution), religious freedom arguments, and arguments about our alleged failure to uphold our Trust. Most important, especially for the members of IUA, the Foundation's nine registered marks were affirmed, including the name "URANTIA" and the Concentric-Circles Symbol. The judge rejected Maaherra's claims of fraud and "genericness." After reviewing all the correspondence between the Foundation and the Trademark Office, the judge wrote: "I find no merit in the defendant's [Maaherra's] allegation of fraud." In rejecting her allegations about the "genericness" of our registered marks, the judge wrote: "The defendant [Maaherra] attempts to rebut the plaintiff's presumption against genericness by misrepresenting cases and selectively quoting statutes." The remaining issue of whether Ms. Maaherra infringed the Foundation's trademarks was settled out of court. Ms. Maaherra has agreed to refrain from using the word "URANTIA" and the Concentric-Circles Symbol in connection with the promotion or dissemination of any books, study aids, or publications.
Many of you have called or written, asking what you can do to help. And we thank you for your offer of support. While there is little or nothing that you can do in regard to the final legal outcome, your continued patience, loyalty, and prayers are greatly appreciated. In the meantime, you may be asked questions by readers who will naturally want to know what is happening. And we shall do everything we can to keep you informed. Please feel free to get in touch if you have questions, and we shall do our best to answer them.
In closing, the policies, programs, and plans of URANTIA Foundation and of IUA have not been based on the copyright in The URANTIA Book but instead, on the contents of the book. Therefore, with or without the copyright, the Foundation will carry on. Nonetheless, the copyright has been an important mechanism for URANTIA Foundation. With it, the Trustees are empowered to discharge what The Declaration of Trust calls their "primary duty," and that is "to perpetually preserve inviolate the text of The URANTIA Book." We shall make every effort to retain the copyright. Fortunately, URANTIA Foundation and the International URANTIA Association will continue to be distinguished as the sole authorized users of the registered marks. Any product published by the Foundation, most critically, the book itself, will be distinguished by its bearing the registered marks "URANTIA" and the Concentric-Circles Symbol. In the social arena, IUA alone will be authorized to use the marks. This will identify IUA as the only social group which is officially connected with URANTIA Foundation and not with other organizations, groups, or individuals focused on channeling, organizational politics, or other activities not directly related to furthering one's understanding of the teachings of The URANTIA Book.
We look forward to having these matters fully and finally settled. We regret that certain individuals and groups have challenged and attacked the integrity of the Foundation and its custodial ownership of the copyright and marks. We look forward to a time of greater understanding and mutual respect among those dedicated to the book which URANTIA Foundation has faithfully published since 1955.
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