World Intellectual Property Review reports that France’s IP office, The National Institute of Industrial Property, has already rejected fifty trademark applications for the phrase JE SUIS CHARLIE, which has seen widespread public use since the terrorist attack at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris. All of the applications were rejected on the basis that, according to France’s IP office, “they do not meet the criterion of distinctive character. This slogan cannot be picked up by an economic actor because of its wide use by the community.” In other words, France’s IP office is arguing that one cannot claim an exclusive right to a phrase that is in such widespread public use that it is incapable of (1) functioning as a unique source identifier for any particular goods/services, and (2) distinguishing one’s goods/services from those of another. The rejections did not delve into a second potential basis for rejection, which is that in France, “applications can be refused if they are considered to conflict with public order or high moral standards.”
As discussed in an earlier post here, attempts by private parties to co-opt and register popular public slogans are almost always both an exercise in futility and a magnet for public condemnation, yet they continue to happen. Frequently. And lest one think that attempts to claim JE SUIS CHARLIE are limited to Europe, it should be noted that at least one U.S. trademark application has already been filed, and by an entity calling itself The Je Suis Charlie Trust, no less. Read the full article here.
Reposted from World Intellectual Property Review.