Ad campaign by major Christian publisher provokes lawsuit

Posted: Friday, August 03, 2001

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Gaylord Entertainment Co., which owns the Grand Ole Opry radio show and other interests, has filed a federal lawsuit against Thomas Nelson Inc., a major Christian book and Bible publisher.

The two sides are arguing over the use of the ''Word'' trademark in Nelson's advertisements.

In 1996, Gaylord purchased Word Records and Music from Nelson for $110 million and also gained rights to use the Word book imprint. Nelson is now changing its own book imprint to W Publishing and is running ads introducing the new name.

Gaylord says Nelson's humorous ads featuring well-known authors of previous Word books attack the Word trademark.

Sample ad headlines: ''There's no hope for revival at Word'' (featuring Billy Graham's daughter Anne Graham Lotz). ''Stay with Word? That's a laugh'' (humorist Barbara Johnson). ''I left Word so I wouldn't get left behind'' (Tim LaHaye, co-author of the ''Left Behind'' novels).

Gaylord charges Nelson with breach of contract, false advertising and unfair competition. Millions of dollars could be at stake, although Gaylord hasn't specified any amount.

Nelson's general counsel, Eric Heyden, acknowledged the attention-grabbing headlines ''can look damaging'' but said ad copy explaining the name change has ''very positive things to say about Word.''

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