Je Suis Unregistrable

Per World Trademark Review, at least one attempt has already been made to claim trademark rights in the phrase JE SUIS CHARLIE, “the slogan adopted by supporters of free speech and freedom of expression in the wake of last week’s Charlie Hebdo magazine massacre in Paris.”  Following in the footsteps of previous efforts to trademark phrases such as BOSTON STRONG, OCCUPY WALL STREET, JUSTICE 4 TRAYVON, HANDS UP DON’T SHOOT, and I CAN’T BREATHE, an applicant named Yanick Uytterhaegen filed a trademark application in the Benelux region (Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg) for the mark JE SUIS CHARLIE on January 8, 2015, just one day after the attack on the Charlie Hebdo headquarters in Paris that killed twelve people.

Attempts to claim exclusive rights in common phrases and slogans in the wake of an event, cause, or movement are sufficiently commonplace to be considered inevitable.  However, attempts to secure formal registration of such marks are seldom successful, because (1) common slogans are rarely associated in the public’s mind with a single source for goods and/or services, and (2) slogans arising from tragic events are generally considered unregistrable as offensive or disparaging in many jurisdictions.  Plus, as the ALS Association learned last summer when it tried to appropriate the phrase ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE (see an earlier post on this subject here), such efforts tend to result in a public relations nightmare for the would-be claimant.  Read the full article here, and the JE SUIS CHARLIE application here.

 By Pierre-Selim (Manifestation Charlie Hebdo) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

By Pierre-Selim (Manifestation Charlie Hebdo) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Reposted from World Trademark Review.