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Can God Sue for Unauthorized Use of the Rainbow?

by Rabbi Rami ShapiroJuly 06, 2019
Columnists
Rainbow flag waving out of car

nito100/Getty Images

Rabbi Rami claps back at the idea that the rainbow can't be used for gay pride.

I own dozens of copyrights and registered trademarks, so when I read that the Gay Pride Rainbow Flag was a trademark infringement against God I was intrigued.

Linda Harvey brought this to my attention in a column she wrote for the One News Now website. Her contention is that people who produce rainbow flags as a symbol of Gay Pride are doing so without the permission of God who trademarked the rainbow in Genesis 9:13: “I have set my rainbow in the cloud as a sign of the covenant between Me and you and everything that is with you in perpetuity.”

On first read, I thought Ms. Harvey had an open and shut case. Or rather, God did. Ms. Harvey herself has no standing since she doesn’t own the trademark to the rainbow, nor is she an agent of God who can sue for trademark infringement on God’s behalf. If God wanted to file suit regarding unauthorized use of the rainbow, He would have a large field of people to sue, especially when you consider that in the US corporations are people too. For example, Apple Computer, Skittles, and NBC are all infringing on God’s trademark. And then there are all those companies that make rainbow themed clothing that have nothing to do with Gay Pride: rainbow shoes, shirts, umbrellas, towels, etc.

On a closer read, however, I think Ms. Harvey may be mistaken. Nowhere in the Bible does God actually trademark the rainbow. Yes, God does call it “His rainbow” but that isn’t a legal claim to trademark. God may own the rainbow, but He may not own the rights to rainbow imagery.

Just to be sure about this I called a lawyer friend of mine who has some experience with trademark law. According to my friend (who prefers to remain anonymous) since God allows nature to produce rainbows at will without securing permission each time a rainbow appears God has effectively surrendered any rights to exclusivity regarding the rainbow image.

“God would have had to command Moses to place a ® after the word “rainbow” whenever it appears in the Bible if God wanted to establish exclusive rights to the image. God would have also been required to register His trademark with the trademark authority which didn’t exist at the time. Even if you claim that such an authority did exist prior to the flood, the fact that God drowned anyone who may have worked for such an authority, makes appealing to that authority moot. If God had wanted to register the rainbow as a trademark He should have done so prior to drowning humanity.”

Like I said, I’m not a lawyer, but this seems pretty straightforward to me. Somehow I doubt Ms. Harvey will agree. 


Rabbi Rami Shipiro

Rabbi Rami Shapiro is an award-winning author, essayist, poet, and teacher. His spiritual advice column, "Roadside Assistance for the Spiritual Traveler," addresses reader questions pertaining to religion, spirituality, faith, family, God, social issues, and more.

His newest book is Surrendered—The Sacred Art: Shattering the Illusion of Control and Falling into Grace with Twelve-Step Spirituality.

He has this to say about religion: “To me, religions are like languages: no language is true or false; all languages are of human origin; each language reflects and shapes the mindset of the civilization that speaks it; there are things you can say in one language that you cannot say or cannot say as well in another; and the more languages you know, the more nuanced your understanding of life. Judaism is my mother tongue, yet in matters of the spirit I strive to be multi-lingual. In the end, however, the deepest language of the soul is silence.”

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