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Chapter 35: The Name

narroway sign

Names are very important to God. We see that throughout the Bible. That’s why, when God clearly told me to NAME the company NarroWay Productions, we took it seriously.

We immediately started calling everything we did “a NarroWay Production” and even incorporated NarroWay in Kentucky - though we couldn’t tell the lawyer what it would do!

kentucky incorporation

After years of cherishing the name, we finally found out what NarroWay was to be in 1996, when we set out to forge a new path for Christian theater.

Rebecca and I were novice entrepreneurs. The logistics of heading a business were new to us.
So, in the process of the whole overwhelming undertaking, it never occurred to us that the NarroWay name didn’t actually belong to us unless it was trademarked.

When we realized, panic ensued!

I contacted Virginia Justice to help. She managed her husband’s Kentucky law firm and took care of NarroWay business matters.
Fortunately, the name wasn’t already trademarked, so Virginia started the process.

When she filed, the application defaulted to email notifications - but Rebecca and I didn’t have internet.

During the following months, we were sent vital information which required follow-through, but we didn’t receive the information. Since we were told that the process could be long, we never suspected anything was wrong.

As a result, the Trademark Office declared our application ABANDONED for reason of FAILURE TO RESPOND – unknown by us.
So, one morning Rebecca hurried into the office with a giant smile, waving an unopened letter! “It’s from the Trademark Office,” she laughed! “Finally!!”

I tore open the letter, expecting to celebrate!...

Her face melted. My heart dropped as we learned our trademark application was cancelled.

I hurried to call the number on the letter.

Rebecca fought back tears as she explained the situation and asked that the application be immediately re-instated.
What came next left us breathless.

“No, ma’am, when your application was abandoned, another party filed for Narrow Way. The name is no longer available.”

2004 narrowway markBecause "Narrow way" had been trademarked while our application was abandoned, we were not permitted to apply for a "NarroWay" trademark.

If you know Rebecca, then you know she doesn’t give up.
“What can I do!” she pleaded.

It was quiet for a moment.
“You can file a petition to cancel their trademark. If the owner contests, you have to defend your right to ownership. It’s a complicated legal process and costly.”
“Can I do it by myself?” I asked.

She told Rebecca how to access the forms. We went to work to file a petition to cancel a trademark.

Trying to understand the legal vernacular on those forms was like trying to read Chinese backwards. Instead of saying “Go to the restroom,” a legal document says: “Ensue to the domicile whereupon the identified party should employ in the elimination process.” Nothing’s simple!

After arduous work – success! The petition to cancel the Narrow Way trademark was accepted. The owner was notified.

What ensued was a battle for the name: NarroWay.

We needed a lawyer!

I made an appointment with a copyright attorney.
At the end of the meeting, he concluded: “Fighting this case will cost thousands and, in the end, you lose.”

Hello?... Did he just say what I think he said?

Despairing that we had lost the NarroWay name, we drove back to the amphitheater.

Then... we RALLIED!

If I was determined, Rebecca was relentless! Often, the complexity made it seem we were wasting our time.

rebecca and birdie

I can’t put into words how desperate I felt.
God ENTRUSTED me with the name. ME!
God didn’t say it loudly for both to hear. He said it to ME.
I felt responsible. I had been reckless with the name.
I didn’t mean to be. I wasn’t goofing off. I thought I had it covered. But a good excuse didn’t matter. I had delegated something that was HOLY, then assumed everything was okay.

This process took more than a year but we never told anyone.

I couldn’t speak it!
Until, one day, Stuart Phelps, a cast member and friend, asked how everything was going. For some reason, I told him.

Next day, Stuart called. His family had a connection with a law firm in Palo Alto, California, specializing in copyrights and occasionally they did pro bono work.

I called! They accepted the case!

Now we had a fighting chance!

After assimilating everything, it came to this:
The current owner could produce documentation of use of the name prior to 1996, which is when we started printing our logo. If we were to win the trademark dispute, we must produce something prior to 1990, to prove we used the name before they did.

We couldn’t find anything!

Then... a revelation!!!
When we resigned our first church in 1986, as a parting gift, our friend, Connie Hall, purchased a special gift for us. She had copied my handwritten words – “a NarroWay Production” from a program and printed the words on two watches.

I rushed home and opened the drawer of the jewelry armoire.

There they were!
Documentation dating to 1986 with the name NarroWay!

narroway watch

I scanned the watches. The law firm did the rest.

NarroWay was assigned ownership of the name. Then, respectfully, we granted permission-of-use of the name Narrow Way to the other party.

Turned out, a gift given in 1986 was really meant “for such a TIME as this!”

And I learned a lesson I won’t forget: Never delegate to someone else something GOD has told YOU to do!!

narroway trademarkAfter a lengthy process, "NarroWay" was finally registered with the US Patent & Trademark Office on June 24, 2008.
transfer letterOnce we won the trademark dispute, the previous owner of the "Narrow way" trademark, assigned that mark to us. We then had to register that mark with the Trademark Office before we could register "NarroWay." That initial process happened 10 years ago, almost to the date. On December 7, 2006 "Narrow way" was transferred, and on  December 11, 2006, it was officially recorded as belonging to NarroWay Productions.
application filedOnce "Narrow way" belonged to us, we reinitiated the process to trademark "NarroWay."
noticePraise be to God, there was no further opposition to the filing!
broadway trademarkWhile registering "NarroWay," we also registered our tagline, "The Broadway of Christian Entertainment." Both are now official trademarks of NarroWay Productions, Inc.
rebeccaYes, if you know Rebecca, then you know she doesn't give up!


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Friday, 12 August 2022
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Chapter 36: When it Rains It Pours
Chapter 34: The Little Things

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