Updated at: 11/21/2012 1:36 PM
By JAN M. OLSEN
(AP) COPENHAGEN, Denmark - Opus Dei, the elite and powerful organization within the Roman Catholic Church, is suing a Danish publisher for alleged trademark violations involving a card game titled "Opus Dei. Existence After Religion."
Public hearings in the suit began Wednesday, and Opus Dei spokeswoman Joanna Engstedt told The Associated Press that Dema Games, the publisher of the philosophy-themed, strategy-based game, has no right to the use her organization’s name, which means "work of God" in Latin.
Dema Games, a small company, obtained a copyright for the full name of the card game in 2009, and claims on its Facebook page that "no one entity can claim sole rights to religious concepts of any kind." The game is the brainchild of a philosophy student, Mark Rees-Andersen, 28, who launched it in January 2009.
Opus Dei was founded in Spain in 1928 by a Catholic priest and given official Vatican approval by Pope Pius XII in 1950. The group drew worldwide attention when Dan Brown published his best-selling "The Da Vinci Code" novel in 2003, and it portrayed the conservative network of Catholic priests and laity as a sinister and sadistic sect.
The real Opus Dei responded to `’The Da Vinci Code" on its website, saying, `’It would be irresponsible to form any opinion of Opus Dei based on reading `The Da Vinci Code.’ ` Fearing the novel would raise doubts about basic Christian beliefs, Christian churches, clergy members and Bible scholars also rebutted it. But Brown wasn’t sued for those reasons.
In Denmark, Opus Dei is demanding that the game’s trademark registration in the country be deleted. It also is seeking 300,000 kroner ($51,500) in financial compensation and closure of the website where the game is on sale, according to Janne Glaesel, defense lawyer for Rees-Andersen and for Dema Games.
"These are far-reaching demands," Glaesel told the AP. "In our view, you cannot get the right to a common concept like Opus Dei, which can be equated with ... other religious concepts like hallelujah."
Opus Dei does not have a representative in Denmark, a predominantly Lutheran country.
Engstedt, the spokesperson for Opus Dei in Scandinavia, said it is the organization’s Spanish branch that is suing Dema Games. Opus Dei Spain did not respond to emailed questions, and its Danish lawyers were not immediately available.
It is not clear how long the hearings regarding the lawsuit will last at the Danish Maritime and Commercial High Court or when it could make its ruling.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)