From South Carolina-
At the heart of this unique Lanham Act case is a dispute between the Episcopal Church (the “Church”) and one of its “disaffiliated” districts, the Diocese of South Carolina (“Diocese”). In 2012, led by its Bishop Mark Lawrence, the Diocese withdrew from the Church, but the Church did not recognize the withdrawal, and appointed Bishop Charles vonRosenberg to replace Bishop Lawrence as the head of the Diocese. Lawsuits ensued, and the dispute raised an interesting question: when a federal court confronts false advertising claims that are related to issues of intellectual property ownership that are being litigated separately in state court, should the federal court abstain from hearing the false advertising claims?
The Diocese fired the opening salvo by suing the Church in state court, and seeking a judgment resolving the ownership of various property rights, including intellectual property rights. The Episcopal Church counterclaimed for, among other things, trademark infringement and dilution.
Thereafter, the newly appointed Bishop vonRosenberg filed a federal lawsuit claiming that Bishop Lawrence falsely advertised himself as the Bishop of the Diocese despite having been removed from that post after the Diocese withdrew from the national church. Bishop Lawrence maintained that he acted properly in continuing to represent himself as the Bishop of the Diocese because the Diocese existed as an independent entity following its withdrawal from the Church.