Kiwi man wins legal battle with mormon church over a family affair

An Auckland man has seen off a legal challenge from the giant mormon church over the trademark for his family location internet service, with the Court of Appeal today ruling against the religious organisation.

The Court of Appeal decision brings a close to seven years of legal wrangling between Robert Sintes and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints over the use of the words ‘family search’.

The church operates a website at familysearch.org which offers free family history, family tree and genealogy records and research, but came down hard on Mr Sintes soon after he launched his own family contact service in 2000.

Mr Sintes first ran into trouble with the organisation when he launched the New Zealand Family Tracing Service, and when he filed an application for a trademark incorporating the words ‘family search’ in 2005, mormon company Intellectual Reserve filed an opposition to his claim.

Four years later and after being dismissed in the High Court, the Court of Appeal has also found in favour of Mr Sintes, saying his use of the mark would not indicate a connection in the course of trade with Intellectual Reserve.

Although Intellectual Reserve could still take the case to the Supreme Court, Mr Sintes told NBR that as far as he was concerned, the matter was “by and large” settled.

He originally started his service after finally getting in touch with family members in the late 1990s, after he had lost contact with them, following a move to New Zealand as a child in 1949.

Mr Sintes said he set up his family search service in an attempt to share his own experiences with other people looking for lost family members, but had no inkling of the legal battle that would result.

“I was just looking to offer a social service when I was suddenly attacked by the third largest religious organization in the world. I was just trying to help people, driven by my own separation from my family after the war, and I can’t even begin to describe what it felt to be confronted with agencies that tried to destroy my efforts instead of help.”

While he estimated he has reunited about 200 families since launching his service, Mr Sintes said there was no money to be made in the endeavour, but that had not stopped the mormon organization from spending an estimated half a million dollars fighting his trademark.

“People who have contributed funds to this group have had their money wasted in this case. I just feel sad for the people who have had their money wasted in fruitless exercises like this.”

Mr Sintes said the task of reuniting familles, and finding the time, resources and emotional strength to do so, was hard enough, and seven years of legal hassle did not help.

With the case consuming both time and money, Mr Sintes said Intellectual Reserve were grasping at straws, but using the “weight of their purse” to pursue the issue.

“These words we have been arguing about are among the top 2% of commonly used words in the English language. They just have an endless supply of other people’s money, which they then go and waste in the pursuing and corralling of common words.”

He said New Zealand was not the only territory targeted by the church in this way.

“They have gone around the world, threatening others to give up domain names and forcing them out purely by weight of money. People have given up domain names they are legally and morally entitled to.

“They attempted the same with me, Originally, they tried to take my domain name, and when they abandoned that, they tried to take the trademark. They might have got away with it, but they had pushed me to the point where I would not give in and it feels good to have the court back me up.” 

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Aren't church's a great example to follow

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To my understanding every story has two sides,but for me as a human it is not my place to judge other people and their beliefs.We came here to experience earth but not to judge one another sbout their beliefs.I have never heard people in the Mormon church say anything bad about others beliefs thats why I am adding to this keep in mind it is Him the almighty that has the right to judge us,but not the other way around.

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and what a completely one sided story... did the author bother to find out why this action was so important to the church? Did he even bother to contact them as he did with Mr Sintes? There's not even a mention that the church 'declined to comment'. Organisations seldom spend thousands of dollars just for the sake of bullying. I'd like to hear what the church has to say. Otherwise this article is a waste of time.

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Mormons are so defensive...Seriously. Honestly, You guys are far worse than Scientologists. Indignant that people find your silly beliefs absurd and bullys to everyone outside your faith.

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"Escalator" anyone?

This article is silent on the prime reason for the Church's action. Does anyone realize how many original pieces of intellectual property, such as trademarks, were lost by companies simply because the companies couldn't demonstrate to courts that they had been trying to keep the integrity of such?

This was a court battle fought not to bully but rather a legal requirement to keep the integrity of an organizations proprietary identity. If you can't demonstrate assertive attempts to protect a name then a court can eject all together your claim to a trademark.

Nothing about that mentioned in the article.

Please don't have your view of a religion be based on a story like this. There was no malevolent intent or desire, there was merely a desire to keep and preserve the overall efforts to protect the integrity of a service our church provides free to anyone on the planet who wishes to use it. Is trying to keep the integrity of that service's name something that's 'evil' or 'bullying' when our church spends, has spent, and continues to spend millions providing a service it doesn't charge for?

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How immature of you to cast your judgement against the church without even knowing their side of the story. This article is one side and thus incomplete.

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No one here needs cast Judgement. Judgement was cast in a NZ Court of Law and the results speak for themselves.

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You obviously know nothing about this church, Have you ever considered investigating its beliefs so you know what you are talking about ?

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LDS Inc never comments on any news that shows it in negative light. Any lawyer that isn't drunk or dead can tell you LDS inc had NO CASE, they just tried to use the weight of their purse, and they failed.

LDS Inc would never comment and would never even return a call to no comment, They have a long history of such behavior.

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In the US this case would have easily been won by the LDS church. Under worldwide ip laws it is vital to fight all of these suits or risk losing your ip. You are ignorant my friend.

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This article is a waste of time!

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There are some pretty wild assertions in this article. The Mormon church hardly goes around the world bullying people. In regards to this gentlemen, it sounds like he's just one of those folks who thinks that he has a cause. I'm pretty sure that none of the Mormon members' money was used to fight this legal battle. The LDS church is very careful with its members' money (and separates business and day-to-day administrative duties from strictly religious ones).

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And where else does the Mormon Church get its money from if it isn't its members? Mormon owned businesses were all bought using tithes (religious) from its members.

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Not necessarily. They receive some donations that are not tithing monies. Some people donate to an education fund, missionary fund, temple fund, etc. Some donate to a humanitarian fund to help people in disasters and the church never asks to be reimbursed.

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Will never know now, will we Alex since the Mormon church refuses to let us know how they spend their (dupes') money.

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Alex - So where did the half million dollars the Church spent on legal fees come from? My understanding is that any money a church has is for religious purposes? "just one of those folks who thinks that he has a cause" helping people find their families sounds like a fair cause to me? Just because his cause doesn't come as part of a franchise uncreatively churned out for the masses like a McDonalds drive thru doesn't make it any less important. Judge not least ye be judged?

EU5912 - Do you not find it extraordinary that a Church has pursued this guy over the use of two extremely common words "Family" & "Search" ... What possible justification could there be?

I imagine this article is very embarrassing for the Mormon Church - perhaps you need to be asking questions of your church instead of jumping on the defensive... turn the other cheek? no?

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I've got to say I agree with God on this one!

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Going after a non-prophet that unites LIVING families so the LDS can do their dead dunking? PITIFUL, just PITIFUL.

Mormons around the world should be ashamed of the callous uncaring actions of their church. But living in Utah, I know that many if not most of them do not give a hoot about non-Mormons.

It is just another case of Christian love coming from the LDS church. Taking legal actions against non-prophets doing very Christlike work, harassing people for kissing... One has to ask, are they really Christian at all?

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If honest intentions were to unite familys and not to gain money. Everyone should be happy. Because the Church will surely reunite ten fold what this one person could ever do. I feel sorry for the church. They revolve around the strength of a family, The church does nothing but good around the whole world, things you would be amazed by if the time was taken to look at the good. Not turn the good into bad.
But I bet not one person talking bad about the church would take time to see the other side.
I do feel bad for the feelings that have been hurt. But we each have that very choice of how we will feel or react.

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If honest intentions were to unite familys and not to gain money. Everyone should be happy. Because the Church will surely reunite ten fold what this one person could ever do. I feel sorry for the church. They revolve around the strength of a family, The church does nothing but good around the whole world, things you would be amazed by if the time was taken to look at the good. Not turn the good into bad.
But I bet not one person talking bad about the church would take time to see the other side.
I do feel bad for the feelings that have been hurt. But we each have that very choice of how we will feel or react.

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The LDS church is not a large religious body.It claims to have a world-wide membership of 13 million but an increasing number of ex mormons are organising themselves and claim the world membership is about 4 million.Many are becoming in-active or leaving as the Internet is getting to many of the US faithful and proving Joseph Smith was a fraud on the back of DNA research,lack of archeological evidence and the constant revision of the Book of Mormon story.It is all about dollars!

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I too have to wonder at the one sided article. It appears they gave Mr. Sintes a free rein to say anything he wanted with absolutely no other side presented. As with most of these things, the truth is probably in the middle somewhere. I also find it interesting how many people are condemning the LDS Church based on the one sided story presented. Based on the last couple of paragraphs, it would appear to me Mr. Sinrtes definitely has an axe to grind.

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Given his experiences with the mormon church, he has every right to grind his axe!

LDS, Inc. lost - hope it happens more often.

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The LDS church would NOT be around. One need only investigate Joseph Smith's translation of "The Book of Abraham" to discover that he was a fraud. I investigated the so called church, I did indeed TRY and see the other side. All I found were lies. The LDS does not unite families, they divide them between worthy and unworthy, routinely excluding unworthy from important family events like weddings. Then there is the Blood Atonement stuff taught by Brigham Young along with the Adam/God nonsense. Sorry, but the LDS church is a fraud started by a huckster. And that fraud does go around bulling people, just like they bullied the people that were doing such good work in TRULY uniting families.

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If anyone really thinks the fact that the two words are within the top 2% of English words needs to consider a few trademarks...

things like-

"happy meal"
"hot jobs"
"united way"
"red box"

If common usage of both words in the English language is grounds for not having claim to a trademark then I want to be able to use the above terms with impunity, along with others that I can concoct using just the top two percent of the most popular words found in a language. Let's see, with 171,000 words considered in current usage by oxford that gives me access to 3,400+ words I can combine. One wonders how many popular trademarks I can cop with such a liberating view on trademark law.

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Good on you Mr. Sintes. You are a man with integrity that wouldn't back down to a bully. And this time the good guy won.

Many years ago I was one of those Mormon missionaries that bothered the people of New Zealand. For that, I apologize deeply. I was a kid that should have known better, but didn't. There are a lot of genuinely good people in the Mormon church, and some not-so-good ones too, like most organizations. The organization itself, however, was founded by a con man and to this day is much more concerned with money and self-perpetuation than it is with honesty, integrity or helping people.

I applaud Mr. Sintes and the New Zealand courts for doing the right thing.

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To me this sounds like identity theft on the part of Stines. FamilySearch is one of the most popular family history sites and maybe he hoped to piggyback off its success. I think organizations, corporations, and individuals have the right to protect their identity and websites. I remember a few years ago the domain oregonstategovernment.com was owned by an individual and he put some horrible information on the site that was x-rated. I can see why organizations would want to protect and buy up related domain names.

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TRUTH and REASON prevailed in NZ - woohoo!!!

The dwindling Mormon sect is losing what little power it thought it had. It can no longer buy court verdicts willy-nilly. Even the ?prophet?-run Mormon Beneficial Life made horrible investment decisions that has left the Mormon sect significantly cash-strapped. Their Jesus-Mall is a money pit. Their college grads are told in commencement addresses to pay into the Mormon sect!! How many college grads are told who to pay money to??? That is so sick and twisted!!!

Shouldn't the Mormon god's one twoo chruch **set the standard and example** of HONESTY and ETHICS in ***everything*** it says and does???

Or do Mormons worship the god of this world after all, the one who haughtily states ''You can buy anything in this world... with money...''

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The Church has been using and registered the name "family search" years ago. Mr. Sintes could have as easily gone with "Family Find" or something that meant the same without stepping on the Church's property. The court ruling is a shame.

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Obviously pretty clear the other way actually Eileen. Just ask the New Zealand court of Law.

I imagine he trademarked familysearch.co.nz which is differentiated and specific to New Zealand.

Also note with a web based business it wouldn't be as simple as going with family find as someone else likely owns this domain.

I couldn't trademark "dog food" as it is a common descriptive for a range of products. Family Search falls into the same broad category and any Trademark Lawyer would tell you that.. A clear case of a bully with a bank account.

Where did dinosaurs come from?

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The Mormon sect actively shields Mormon pedophiles. The story at this link is one of the worst, but it's only one out of how many hundreds that occur each year...

http://www.postregister.com/scouts_honor/index.php

For other cases see http://www.childpro.org/ldscases.htm
and http://www.rickross.com/groups/mormon.html#Sex_Abuse

... for starters.

Is there less pedophilia in the Mormon sect than in the Catholic church, or more?

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For those that say the LDS has the right to "Family find" on some legal grounds? Guess what THE COURTS RULED THAT THE LDS DOES NOT. Anyone making the claim that the LDS has a right to that trademark no longer has a legitimate point. The Courts ruled the LDS has no such claim. :LDS supporters, you lost get over it.

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Looks like the loons are coming out of the woodwork to comment on this story. This story was exceedingly lopsided and provided very little context to the intellectual property issues at hand.

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I found this article to very one sided and the negative comments about the church appear to be based purely on emotion and not on fact.

Regarding the church being only interested in money - If the LDS church is so concerned about money why do their church leaders not get paid? Why does the church spend so much time and money on free services such as family search? Why does the church yearly spend millions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of hours to accomplish so many charitable acts? The LDS church leaders are not rich and they don't leave a legacy of money to their children when they die. The church has never had a major financial scandal and overall does good throughout the world. I have associated with church leaders and the money is always considered as if it were the "widow's mite". In other words they treat it sacredly. Furthermore, I always am amazed at the anger displayed toward the church on such minor issues such as this. To me it is just another indication the church is of God, because if it wasn't from God people wouldn't care...The Caravan Moves On!

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Lane, I'm sorry, but you seem to have missed some facts in your study of Church history and policy.

First, one of the earliest and largest shake-ups in the church was when a good portion of the membership left and considered Joseph a fallen prophet because of the Kirtland Bank fiasco. Although the apologists have "explanations" for it, even in the best of interpretations it was fairly faith-shaking.

Second, you should try to dig information up the "living allowance" or "stipend" that the top leaders receive from the church. Although *most* people in the volunteer leadership positions receive no compensation, that is not true for the top-most leaders. They also sit on many Boards of Directors for church owned businesses and they make considerable monies off the numerous books they typically write. To claim they aren't paid is wrong by most people's standards.

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Are you Catholic?

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Are you Catholic?

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You are seriously mistaken when you assert that Mormon leaders do no not get paid!

The fact is that everyone over the rank of stake president does indeed get paid by the church.
The higher up in rank, the greater the pay and the privileges.

Although the exact amounts paid are a closely guarded secret, they are certainly not "small stipends".

For example Gordon B.Hinckley, a lifelong church employee, was able to write a $100,000.00 dollar check from his personal money during the 1980s in order to make the Hoffman forgery affair go away.

Regular members are being bled to death financially by this fraudulent sect which masquerades as a family church.

The "good" the church supposedly does is also a fraud - they spend only a very small percentage of their annual income on actual charity while amassing hunting preserves and other worldly property.

Mormonism in reality is appallingly different from what God's true church ought to be like.

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There are only two churches...God's church or Satan's...I'm on God's side, so that must leave you with Satan...

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There are only two churches...God's church or Satan's...I'm on God's side, so that must leave you with Satan...

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Nobody on the mormon side had anything to say on the issue yesterday, but if they want to talk now, they are welcome to e-mail me at rsmith@nbr.co.nz

Journalism has a thing called deadlines, and any story where one person says a lot, and the other side refuses to comment, will inevitably lead to a one-sided tale.

The NBR is, as always, perfectly willing to hear from both sides of the story.

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Then you should have stated that the LDS church was contacted but did not return your calls prior to deadline. Without this information it does not appear that you did your job by trying to contact both sides involved.

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common words and initials should be available to everyone to use, like
national, N,
business, B, and
review R

so I can use NBR as a trademark for my own business reports, right?

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Instead of discussing the courts ruling on it's merits, the Mormon hating bigots have come out of the woodworks. People making these hateful anti-Mormon comments would have looked right at home wearing a swastica.

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Mark there is more venom and hate in your comment than most here.

Please debate on the facts and leave the nazi aspersions at home.

Why be so fearful of open debate?

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Robert Smith fancies himself a reporter? What a hack. Is somebody actually paying him ?

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Once again, the NBR is perfectly willing to hear from both sides of the argument. Trying to get comment out of the mormon church can be exceedingly difficult, but we are not prepared to sit on our hands and wait for them to bless us with a response.

Again: Representatives of Intellectual Reserve or the greater mormon church are entirely welcome to contact me at rsmith@nbr.co.nz and tell me their side of the story..

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wise man dont waist time on rubbish, and that what u looking for Mr R. Smith "rubish" if i am the mormon church i wont bother either.who cares about NBR not me, unless NBR pay me money like u, Mr Smith. we dont want argument, waist of time thats why they went to court for, its done. Why NBR not going to court and get their story from them? because court don't give a shit about them and you Robert Smith. this is my personal comment, to you. who care your deadline these people wont talk to you and whatever you do. the door is close. i don't like to argue, i don't go to church but i like peace, means "MIND YOUR BUSINESS." Mr Smith have your parents ever teach you that argument is bad? thats shame. go and find something that makes the world live in peace.

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Please note that telling me I am going to burn in hell, a message which one charming individual has already emailed through, is not helping with the intellectual level of the debate.

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Two male Mormons were doing the missionary thing, knocking on doors and then being told to %$£& off. But then they knocked on the door of a little old lady. They introcuded themselves, and she said "Aren't you the religion that has more than one wife?" "We are" they replied. "Well you ought to be hung, drawn and quartered" she said. "We are," they said.

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