In August of 2017, InfoVaticana, a small Catholic news portal based in Madrid, Spain, was surprised to receive a letter from Baker & McKenzie, the second largest law firm in the world, demanding that InfoVaticana transfer its domain (www.infovaticana.com) to the Vatican Secretariat of State. The reason for the demand was that the Vatican alleges that it possesses exclusive property rights over the name of the physical center of the Catholic world. The letter stated that InfoVaticana had seven days to comply with this order and that failing to do so would result in an exceedingly expensive lawsuit.
InfoVaticana, which was launched in May of 2013, says that it is “a free and independent media that has the vocation to serve the Catholic Church and society.” It’s stated mission is to “deepen the denunciation of Christianophobia and the corruption that the Church uses, the rejection of the totalitarian impositions of the powerful LGBT lobby and the support of our brothers, the persecuted Christians.”
InfoVaticana has written articles critical of the homosexual influence in the Vatican, Pope Francis’s Amoris Laetitia, the Vatican’s scandalous handling of the Order of Malta, the provision of a medal to a radical pro-abortion politician, and many other concerns held by Catholics around the world.
In early 2017, InfoVaticana filed a trademark request for its name beside the Emblem of the Vatican State. It wasn’t long before InfoVaticana discovered that it could not trademark a national emblem, and so on March 27, 2017, it withdrew its trademark application and opted to trademark its name along with a more generic pair of crossed keys instead.
The trouble began two months later, when on May 15, InfoVaticana received a letter from Baker & McKenzie on behalf of the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin. The letter argued that the crossed keys “represent the symbolic emblem of the Christ Delivering Keys to St. Peter [and] are an integral part of the Emblem,” and when combined with the name “InfoVaticana,” the public may draw the “wrongful and misleading impression that the Website is officially linked or directly managed by the Holy See.” As such, the letter requests that InfoVaticana withdraw its trademark application and cease using the Emblem of the Vatican State and the combined image of InfoVaticana with the crossed keys.
In August of 2017, InfoVaticana received a second letter from Baker & McKenzie, this time demanding that in addition to no longer using the crossed keys with the name InfoVaticana, InfoVaticana actually cease using the name “InfoVaticana” at all and turn the website domain over to the Secretary of State. The letter argues that the crossed keys used in InfoVaticana’s application for its trademarked logo is a violation of the Vatican’s intellectual property in the form of “State Symbols.” Such argumentation would imply that any portion of the formal symbols representing Vatican City (the Cross, the keys, a tassel, a gold and white flag) are prohibited from use by any entity without express permission from the Vatican.
If this is actually the case, then the Vatican would need to pursue lawsuits against the following as well:
But then the letter from Baker & McKenzie gets even more ridiculous. In addition to demanding that InfoVaticana refrain from using the crossed keys as a symbol of the website, the letter demands:
4) Immediately transfer in favor of the Secretary of State (or in favor of whom it designates), the domain name www.infovaticana.com.
“the domain name infovaticana.com (the “Name of Infringing Domain”) incorporates the vocabulary “INFOVATICANA” that, as seen, induces the public to error about the nature and origin of the service offered by you.
In short, the described uses not authorized by the Secretary of State on the Website in the Name of the Infringing Domain and the way in which your Website and the business carried out by you are presented to the public constitute clear infractions of the State Symbols and other signs that designate the Vatican institution that the Secretary of State is not willing to tolerate.”
In other words, the argument is that (forgetting that InfoVaticana’s “about us” page clearly states that it is “a free and independent media” site) InfoVaticana gives the appearance that it is an officially sanctioned Vatican website (it does not) and so therefore must not only cease using any portion or imitation of official symbols of the Vatican State, but hand over the domain name as well.
This would be like the Federal Government of the United States telling USA Today that it must hand over its name and web domain to the US government because the use of “USA” is exclusive to the government. Perhaps, then, the state of New York should demand that the New York Times hand over its name and domain for the same reason. Same thing with America Magazine.
In response to the letter, InfoVaticana enlisted the aid of a legal team who provided a compromise to Baker & McKenzie, proposing that InfoVaticana cease to use the crossed keys in its logo, as well as any other image that may correspond to official emblems of the Holy See. The proposal was not a concession of any wrong-doing, but an act of good faith and good will in a desire to avoid causing confusion or the impression that InfoVaticana was in any way involved with the Vatican State.
Baker & McKenzie’s response was an emphatic refusal to negotiate, reiterating the demand that the domain name must be transferred to the Vatican Secretary of State.
But that’s not even the worst of it.
The law firm Cardinal Parolin hired to handle the case, Baker & McKenzie, is well known for the promotion of homosexuality, and even represented the abortion giant, Planned Parenthood.
In August of last year, Baker & McKenzie’s office in Belfast, Ireland partnered with the homosexual group “Cara-Friend” to fund its “LGBTQ+ Awareness Teacher Training program.” James Richards, the Executive Director of Baker & McKenzie’s Belfast office said:
“We believe that no-one should be put at a disadvantage, professionally, financially or socially, on the basis of who they are. Here in Belfast, we set up our LGBT network just over a year ago and we are thrilled to be sponsoring Cara-Friend’s Awareness Teacher programme, to help influence our future leaders to respect and support all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Northern Ireland.”
In September of last year, Baker & McKenzie’s London office implemented “Gender Transition Guidelines.” Following the implementation of the Firm’s “North America Gender Transition and Identity Guidelines,” the London Office guidelines are intended to:
“support transitioning employees and ensure that the Firm, and all relevant managers and employees, support individuals through their transition. This includes, for example, a Workplace Transition Plan which provides a framework for the transitioning individual, their line manager and HR to follow.”
In December of 2017, Baker & McKenzie advised the homosexual group called “Stonewall”as it fought against what it called an “ultra-orthodox Charedi Jewish Community.” Baker & McKenzie’s statement says that the case was about
“the right of a transgender woman to have direct contact with her children who belong to the ultra-orthodox Charedi Jewish Community. The case raised the questions of human rights and discrimination, in evaluating a child’s welfare.”
In 2016, Baker & McKenzie was named “Best Place to Work for LGBT Equality” by the Human Rights Campaign.
In July of 2017, Baker & McKenzie was named “One of Stonewall’s Top Global Employers 2017.”
On top of this, in 1991, Baker & McKenzie represented Planned Parenthood in the case “Planned Parenthood V. Wilson.” Timothy Wilson was a pro-life activist in this case.
It remains to be seen what further action the Vatican will take against InfoVaticana. InfoVaticana (rightfully) refuses to hand over the domain name of their website, and the Vatican Secretary of State (Cardinal Parolin) is threatening to engage in a protracted legal battle, which will inevitably ruin InfoVaticana financially. Baker & McKenzie’s specious arguments about the use of crossed keys and the word “Vatican” in the name “InfoVaticana” likely don’t have the strength to win in court, but battles such as these tend to more about attrition than victory. And all the while, a great enemy of the Catholic Church will swell with Catholic funding, because some dissident clericalists in the Curia are annoyed by the criticisms of a single voice.
This article originally appeared at The Lepanto Institute.
Michael Hichborn is the president of the Lepanto Insitute. Formerly, Michael spent nearly eight years as American Life League’s Director of the Defend the Faith project. He has researched and produced countless articles and reports on the funding of abortion, birth control, homosexuality and Marxism by Catholic Relief Servies and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD).
Michael holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Christendom College in Political Science and Economics and a Master’s degree in Education from American Intercontinental University.
Michael lives in Virginia with his wife, Alyssa, and their five children.