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Clothiers fight about trademarking Jesus' name

Jeff Lamont, a country and western musician from Bella Vista, Calif., says he launched a clothing line called “Jesus Up” two years ago to thank the Lord for his recoveries from serious illnesses.

But now Lamont has found himself in an unlikely battle with an Italian jeans maker, which contends he’s using the name of the Lord in vain, legally speaking.

Jesus Jeans of Torino, Italy, is contesting Lamont’s attempt to trademark the name “Jesus” for his Jesus Up clothing line ( Lamont wants to use the sales to help the needy, and envisions starting a foundation.

Jesus Jeans, however, said it got the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to register the word “Jesus” as a trademark in 2007.

The U.S. attorney for the company said Jesus Jeans doesn’t object to Lamont using the Jesus Up name to promote Christianity. The issue is using the term as a trademark and putting it on clothing for commercial purposes.

Jesus Jeans’ parent company also is battling Jesus Surfed’s right to trademark. Jesus Surfed was established last year by Michael Anton of Virginia Beach, Va.

Both Lamont and Anton, who have spoken to each other by phone, say their small businesses are based on scripture and they believe it’s ridiculous to suggest consumers will confuse the brands with Jesus Jeans.

“I’m not in it for the money at all,” Lamont said. “How dare these people try to make money out of Jesus’ name?”

Lamont characterizes the trademark case as a battle of good versus evil.

“God’s behind this whole thing,” said Lamont, who doesn’t have an attorney. “God is going to fight this. God is the author and he will be the finisher. He’s just using me as a vessel.”

Lamont’s quest to honor Jesus through his clothing line stems from his youth, when he was stricken with diabetes at 14. The disease left him temporarily blind when he was 30, at which time he says he also had kidney and pancreas transplants.

Lamont says his vision was restored by “surgery and faith.”

About three years ago, doctors took out most of Lamont’s colon. Recovering from surgery, Lamont, 46, said God spoke to him, telling him to “Jesus up” and give back by feeding God’s “sheep.”

This Biblical trademark tilt has drawn national headlines.

The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that since Jesus Jeans was awarded the trademark in 2007, the company has gone after “more than a dozen other startup clothing lines it claims appropriated 'Jesus' without the company’s blessing.”

Anton and Lamont contend the jeans company is trying to use the Lord’s name for strictly marketing purposes, while their use is for religious ends.

But Ann Bartow, a law professor at Pace Law School in White Plains, N.Y., said standard trademark law doesn’t make that distinction.

“The standard is the likelihood of confusion,” Bartow said.

Regardless, both Lamont and Anton vow not to give up.

“This is something I want to see happen before my time is up,” Lamont said.