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Case 1:15-cv-03692-SAS Document 1 Filed 05/13/15 Page 1 of 14

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT


SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
RELIGIOUS ZIONISTS OF AMERICA,
MIZRACHI-HAPOEL HAMIZRACHI, I
Plaintiff,

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Case No. _ __ __ _ __

-againstBENYAMIN KORN, MOSHE PHILLIPS, DR.


NATHAN MOSKOWITZ, ROBERT SHECHTER,
JOHN DOES 1-10,

COMPLAINT

Defendants.

Plaintiff Religious Zionists of America, Mizrachi -Hapoel H ru izralJ~


undersigned attorneys, Sher Tremonte LLP, for its Complaint against defendants Benyamin Korn
("Kom"), Moshe Phillips ("Phillips"), Dr. Nathan Moskowitz ("Moskowitz"), Rabbi Robert
Shechter ("Shechter") and John Does 1-10 (collectively "Defendants"), alleges as follows:

NATURE OF THE CASE


1.

This case arises from Defendants' usurpation of the identity of a

prominent non-profit corporation, RZA, in order to gain a wider audience for their viewpoints
and to attempt to manipulate RZA's members to effect a change in leadership.
2.

By disseminating articles, emails and newsletters under RZA's name and

trademark, Defendants intentionally misled and confused RZA's constituents in order to promote
Defendants' own political objectives.
3.

RZA brings this action for trademark infringement and related claims to

prevent further irreparable harm to the reputation and identity that RZA has spent decades to
develop.

Case 1:15-cv-03692-SAS Document 1 Filed 05/13/15 Page 2 of 14

THE PARTIES
4.

PlaintiffRZA is a non-profit corporation organized under the laws of New

York with a principal place of business located at 500 Seventh Avenue, New York, New York.
5.

Upon information and belief, defendant Benyamin Korn is an individual

residing in Pennsylvania. Upon information and belief, Korn derives substantial revenue from
interstate or international commerce.
6.

Upon information and belief, defendant Moshe Phillips is an individual

residing Pennsylvania. Upon information and belief, Philips derives substantial revenue from
interstate or international commerce.
7.

Upon information and belief, Dr. Nathan Moskowitz is an individual

residing in Maryland. Upon information and belief, Moskowitz derives substantial revenue from
interstate or international commerce.
8.

Upon information and belief, Rabbi Robert Shechter is an individual

residing in New Jersey. Upon information and belief, Shechter derives substantial revenue from
interstate or international commerce.
9.

Upon information and belief, John Does 1-10 are individuals who

participated in the unlawful conduct described below.


JURISDICTION AND VENUE
10.

This action arises under the Trademark Act of 1946, as amended (the

"Lanham Act"), 15 U.S.c. 1051 et seq., and applicable state and common law governing
trademark, unfair competition, and unfair and deceptive business practices.
11.

The Court has original jurisdiction over the subject matter of this action

pursuant to Section 29 ofthe Lanham Act, 15 U.S.c. 1121, and under 28 U.s.C. 1331,

Case 1:15-cv-03692-SAS Document 1 Filed 05/13/15 Page 3 of 14

1338(a) and (b). The Court has supplemental jurisdiction over RZA's state law claims under 28
U.S.c. 1367(a).
12.

Venue is prbper in this District pursuant to 28 U.S.c. 1391 because a

substantial part of the events giving rise to the claim occurred in New York and a substantial part
of property that is the subject of the action is situated in New York.
13.

The Court has jurisdiction over the Defendants because Defendants

engaged in continuous and pervasive wrongful acts directed toward RZA, aNew York
corporation, its officers and leaders located in New York, and its New York members and
donors. Specifically, Defendants used RZA's trademarks to pose as if they were Plaintiff and
deliberately spread false and misleading information about RZA in an effort to mislead and
confuse RZA' s members and sponsors and to direct and control RZA' s internal affairs without
any permission or authority to do so, irreparably harming and damaging RZA, its reputation, and
its goodwill.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND
Plaintiff's Well-Known Organization and Trademarks
14.

RZA is an ideological and educational organization that aims to instill in

the American Jewish public a commitment to Religious Zionism. Religious Zionism refers to an
ideology supporting a strong Jewish religious and national outlook and is, among other things,
dedicated to the preservation of Jewish political freedom and the enhancement of Jewish
religious life both domestically and in the land of Israel.
15.

To carry out its mission, RZA promotes adult and young adult educational

programming; sponsors and organizes events; forms partnerships with affiliate organizations;
publishes scholarly articles; distributes newsletters; engages in advocacy directed toward the

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State of Israel; participates in fundraising activities; and supports educational and religious
growth.
16.

Since the inception of its predecessor organizations more than 100 years

ago, RZA has been successful in spreading its mission and attracting members and support
nationwide. I
17.

RZA also maintains several regional chapters and currently has active

chapters in California and Illinois in addition to its headquarters in New York.


18.

Together with its partner and affiliate organizations including, but not

limited to, "Bnei Akiva," "Yavneh Olami," "Torah Mitzion,""Amit" and "Emunah," hundreds of
thousands of individuals across the nation, and around the globe, have been exposed to RZA and
its mission.
19.

RZA has adopted, used and continues to use the trade name, trademark

and service mark "Religious Zionists of America." RZA has used this mark continuously, for
more than 50 years in support of its mission and business activities.
20.

RZA has also adopted, used and continues to use the trademark and

service mark represented visually in the logo below:

21.

RZA has used the above logo continuously, for more than 30 years in

support of its mission and business activities.

In 1957, two American Jewish organizations the "Mizrachi Organization" (founded in


1911) and "Hapoel Hamizrachi" (founded in 1947) merged to form RZA.
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22 .

Together, the mark "Religious Zionists of America," and the RZA logo

depicted above constitute the "RZA Marks."


23 .

RZA has exclusive rights to the RZA Marks and its use of the RZA Marks

predates any use of the RZA Marks by the Defendants.


24.

RZA has invested substantial time and money in developing the RZA

Marks and has consistently and successfully used the RZA Marks to distinguish itself from
others in the minds of the relevant public, including other Zionist organizations.
25.

The RZA Marks have been and continue to be heavily promoted by RZA.

RZA's promotional efforts include displaying the RZA Marks's on its nationally accessible
website (accessible at

lll!n /L~YJY'c~ .rzlL9m.),

regular newsletters, email distributions, and through

advertisements in Jewish magazines, newspapers and other publications around the country.
26.

Material containing the RZA Marks has come to be known to the relevant

public throughout the United States as emanating specifically from RZA and not any other
organization, Zionist or otherwise. As a result, the RZA Marks and the goodwill associated
therewith have become assets of great value to Plaintiff.
27 .

By virtue of the renown acquired by the RZA Marks, the RZA marks are

distinctive and have acquired secondary meaning and significance in the minds of the relevant
public.

Defendants' Infringing Activities


28 .

Defendants Phillips and Korn have published thirty-one news articles and

editorials at "Arutz Sheva," an Israeli media network identifying with Religious Zionism, using
the RZA Marks without permission or authority (the "Infringing Articles").

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29.

The Infringing Articles continue to be accessible through Arutz Sheva's

website w\v\v.israclnationalncws.com.
30.

Defendants published the Infringing Articles with the intent of confusing

the relevant public into believing that the Infringing Articles emanated from or were authorized
or approved by RZA when, in actuality, they were not and Defendants had no such authority or
permIssIon.
31.

Defendants have also circulated a weekly newsletter using the RZA Marks

without any pelmission or authority from RZA (the "Infringing Newsletters"). Defendants have
distributed the Infringing Newsletters via email to the very members of the public that are
interested in and targeted by RZA, including rabbis, orthodox Jews and other members of the
Jewish community, many of whom are RZA members.
32.

The Infringing Newsletters dated March 8, 2015, March 15,2015, and

March 22, 2015 are attached hereto as Exhibit A.


33.

In addition to using the RZA Marks without permission or authority, the

Infringing Newsletters contain other elements designed to deceive the recipients into believing
that Defendants speak on behalf of RZA. For instance, Defendants list themselves (and others
not affiliated with RZA) directly alongside RZA's officially sanctioned chapters. By listing
themselves with RZA's recognized chapters, Defendants seek to intentionally mislead the
relevant public into believing Defendants are associated with and sanctioned by RZA and that
the content and material produced and disseminated by Defendants are authorized by RZA.
34.

Indeed, members of the relevant public have been misled into believing

that the Infringing Newsletters and Articles originate from or are authorized by RZA. Several
recipients of the Infringing Newsletters contacted RZA expressing confusion over the origin of

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the Newsletters and inquired whether RZA had authored or approved the content contained
therein.
35.

Upon information and belief, Defendants may have received donations or

generated other profits rightly belonging to RZA due to the relevant public's confusion
concerning the origin of the Infringing Newsletters and Articles.
36.

Defendants have attempted to commandeer RZA's goodwill and

reputation by deceiving members of the relevant public into falsely believing that content
emanating from Defendants is sanctioned and authorized by RZA.

Defendants' Deceptive Effort to Replace RZA's Leadership


37.

Defendants have also published materially false and misleading

information about RZA's leadership and activities.


38.

In the Infringing Newsletter dated March 22,2015, Defendants continued

to report on a purported "Tribute Committee," formed by Defendants, to "honor" "the outgoing


national officers of the Religious Zionists of America, including RZA president Rabbi Y osef
Blau and chairman of the board Martin Oliner."
39.

Defendants further claimed that the outgoing officers "will be honored and

new officers will be elected" at the next RZA convention.


40.

RZA did not authorize the formation of the Tribute Committee.

4l.

Rabbi Blau remains RZA 's President and has no present intention of

42.

Martin Oliner remains chairman ofRZA's board and has no present

retiring.

intention of retiring.

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43.

RZA has not authorized the election of new officers at the next RZA

44.

Upon information and belief; Defendants fOlmed the fake Tribute

convention.

Committee and falsely claimed that new officers would be elected in an attempt to manipulate
RZA's members into causing Rabbi Blau to retire as RZA's president and Martin Oliner to
resign as RZA's chairman and to prompt the election of new officers without RZA's permission
or authority.
45.

Neither the Tribute Committee nor statements concerning RZA elections

were sanctioned or authorized by RZA.


46.

Defendants' conduct is designed, among other things, to improperly direct,

manipulate and control the internal conduct of RZA .


47.

Defendants contacted members ofRZA and others, including hundreds of

influential rabbis, who mistakenly believed the Tribute Committee was formed and supported by
RZA.
Defendants' Refusal to Cease and Desist Their Infringing and Deceptive Conduct
48.

On March 26, 2015 counsel for RZA sent Korn, Phillips, and Moskowitz a

letter demanding that they cease and desist from further infringement of the RZA Marks . The
March 26, 2015 letters from RZA's counsel are attached hereto as Exhibit B.
49.

Defendants responded by denying their involvement in any infringing

50.

Defendants' unauthorized use of the RZA Marks and their related acts

activity.

were calculated to intentionally confuse the public. As such, Defendants have unfairly and
unlawfully usurped RZA's control over its intellectual property and reputation.

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51.

If Defendants continue to use the RZA Marks and engage in other

deceptive acts relating to their affiliation with RZA, such activity is likely to continue to create
confusion among recipients of the Infringing A11icles, Newsletters and other materials circulated
by Defendants by causing such recipients to believe that such materials are authorized and
endorsed by RZA.
52.

The actions complained of herein have been committed willfully and

wantonly with the intention and knowledge that RZA would suffer damages, including
irreparable damages, as a direct result thereof.
53.

RZA has no adequate remedy at law.

FIRST CLAIM FOR RELIEF


UNFAIR COMPETITION (15 U.S.c. 1125(a))
54.

RZA repeats and realleges each of the allegations set forth above as if

fully set forth herein.


55.

Defendants' use of the RZA Marks constitutes a false designation of

origin and a false representation as to the origin of the Infringing Newsletters and Articles.
Defendants' use of the RZA Marks has caused actual confusion and, going forward, is likely to
continue to cause confusion, mistake, or deception as to the source of Defendants' Infringing
Newsletters and Articles.
56.

Defendants' use of the RZA Marks is likely to create the false impression

that the Infringing Newsletters and Articles are authorized by, sponsored by, endorsed by, or
affiliated with RZA.
57.

Defendants' actions constitute unfair competition in violation of Section

43(a) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. Il25(a).

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58.

Defendants' conduct has caused and is causing immediate and ineparable

injury to RZA and will continue to damage RZA and deceive the public unless enjoined by the
Court. RZA has no adequate remedy at law.
SECOND CLAIM FOR RELIEF
UNFAIR COMPETITON UNDER NEW YORK COMMON LAW

59.

RZA repeats and realleges each of the allegations set forth above as if

fully set forth herein.


60.

Defendants' use of the RZA Marks and other deceptive acts are likely to

confuse the public as to the origin, source or sponsorship of Defendant's Infringing Newsletters
and Articles and other materials circulated by Defendants.
61 .

Defendants' use of the RZA Marks is likely to cause mistake or deceive

the public into believing that Defendants' Infringing Newsletters and Articles and other acts are
authorized by, sponsored by, endorsed by, or affiliated with RZA, in violations ofRZA's rights
in the RZA Marks and its reputation and goodwill under the common law of the State of New
York.
62.

Defendants are using the RZA Marks with full knowledge ofRZA's prior

use and rights in the RZA Marks.


63.

By adopting and using RZA's Marks, and otherwise deceptively

masquerading as RZA, RZA has been damaged.


64.

By misappropriating and trading upon the goodwill and business

reputation represented by the RZA Marks, and through Defendants' other unlawful and improper
acts, Defendants have been and, unless enjoined by this Court, will continue to damage RZA's
reputation and goodwill.

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65.

Defendants' use of the RZA Marks and related conduct are intended to

deceive the relevant public and constitute unfair competition under New York common law.
66.

Defendants' conduct has caused and continues to cause immediate and

irreparable injury to RZA and will continue to both damage RZA and deceive the public unless
enjoined by this Court.
67.

RZA has no adequate remedy at law.

THIRD CLAIM FOR RELIEF


VIOLATION OF THE NEW YORK DECEPTIVE AND UNFAIR
TRADE PRACTICES ACT (N.Y. GENERAL BUSINESS LAW 349)
68.

RZA repeats and realleges each of the allegations set forth above as if

fully set forth herein.


69.

By reason of the acts set forth above, defendants have been and are

engaged in deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of business, trade or commerce in violation
of Section 349 of the New York General Business Law.
70.

Defendants ' use of the RZA Marks and other improper acts have the

capacity to deceive and are deceiving the public as to the source or sponsorship of material
circulated by Defendants, including but not limited to the Infringing Newsletters and Articles .
71.

As a result, the public and RZA will be damaged if Defendants are not

72.

Defendants' conduct is willful and in knowing disregard for RZA's rights.

73 .

Defendants ' conduct constitutes deceptive trade practice under New York

enjoined.

General Business Law Section 349.

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74.

Defendants' conduct has caused and continues to cause immediate

irreparable injury to RZA and will continue to damage RZA and deceive the public unless
enjoined by the COUl1.
75.

RZA has no adequate remedy at law.

FOURTH CLAIM FOR RELIEF FOR TRADEMARK


DILUTION UNDER NEW YORK LAW (N.Y. G.B.L. 360-D
76.

RZA repeats and realleges each of the allegations set forth above as jf

fully set forth herein.


77.

The RZA Marks are distinctive and have acquired distinctiveness prior to

Defendants' use of the RZA Marks.


78.

Defendants' unauthorized use of the RZA Marks is diluting and is likely to

continue to dilute the RZA Marks by blurring the distinctiveness thereof.


79.

Defendants' unauthorized use of the RZA Marks is likely to injure and has

injured RZA's business reputation, in that the reputation ofRZA has been removed from its full
power and control and that deficiencies in or complaints about Defendants' goodwill and
practices redound to the harm ofRZA.
80.

Defendants' unauthorized acts as described herein have caused and wilI

continue to cause irreparable damage to RZA's business and goodwill unless enjoined by this
Court.
81.

RZA has no adequate remedy at law.

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WHEREFORE, Plaintiff RZA respectfully requests judgment as follows:


1.

Preliminarily and permanently enjoining Defendants, their agents,

attorneys, affiliates, and assigns, and all those persons in concert or participation with any of
them from:
a.

adopting, using or displaying the RZA Marks, in whole or in part (or any
phonetic equivalent, misspelling, simulation, reproduction, copy, colorable
imitation or confusingly similar variation thereof);

b.

adopting, using or displaying any trade name or trademark that is confusingly


similar with the RZA Marks, including but not limited to any trade name or
trademark using the phrase "Religious Zionists of [Geographic Location]";

c.

publishing or otherwise disseminating, in any way, false, misleading, or


defamatory infonnation concerning RZA, its members, leaders, or affiliates
thereto;

d.

assisting, aiding or abetting any other person or business entity in engaging


in or performing any of the activities referred to in subparagraphs (a)-(c)
above.

II.

Directing Defendants, for a period of one year from the date of the order,

to include a prominently displayed written disclaimer on any articles, newsletters, promotional


emails, or other written or virtual publication of any kind that relates, in any way, to religious
Zionism, clearly stating that Defendants and any content contained therein are not authorized by
or affiliated, in any way, with RZA.

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III.

Directing Defendants to account to Plaintiffs for any profits generated or

donations received resulting from their unlawful conduct; and to disgorge those profits and/or
donations to RZA.
IV.

Directing Defendants to pay RZA damages for the injuries sustained by

RZA as a result of Defendants' passing off, infringement, blurring, tarnishment, unfair


competition, misleading designations, deceptive conduct and false advertising.
V.

Awarding exemplary and punitive damages as a result of Defendants'

conduct found to be willful, intentional and malicious.


VI.

Awarding attorneys' fees and costs.

VII.

Awarding such other relief as the Court deems just and equitable.

Dated: New York, New York


May 13,2015
SHER TREMONTE LLP

Justin 1. Gunnell
80 Broad Street, Suite 1301
New York, New York 10004
Tel: 212.202.2600
E-mail: jshcr(u)she ltn.:mollte.com
E-mail: jgunJ1cl1(d.shcrircmontc.com

Attorneys for Plaintiff Religious Zionists


ofAmerica, Mizrachi-Hapoel Hamizrachi, I

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