'Je Suis Charlie' Trademarked In France?

Author:Mr Michel Béjot (Bernard - Hertz - Béjot) and Caroline Bouvier (Bernard - Hertz - Béjot)
Profession:Global Advertising Lawyers Alliance (GALA)

A trademark application for « Je suis Charlie », the phrase popularized in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, has been filed with the Benelux Officer for Intellectual Property. The publication of the application occurred on January 12, 2015, so that the time limit to file an opposition runs until March 12, 2015.

In other countries, such as the United States or Australia, applications for « Je suis Charlie » have also been filed and are therefore likely to be subject to the assessment, under local law, of whether or not such a wording can be registered as a trademark in these countries.

In France, the Trademark Office declared that it has rejected over 50 trademark applications for « Je suis Charlie » since the terrorist attacks in France. The ground for such a refusal is that the applications do not meet the criterion of the distinctive character, insofar as it is widely used by the community. The fact that such a commercial use could affect the moral standard is also referred to, by practitioners, to explain this decision.

On January 16, 2015, the Office for the Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM) confirmed this approach, insofar as it considered that "according to OHIM's Guidelines for Examination on Community Trade Marks (Part B, Section 4), an application which consisted of or which contained the phrase "Je suis Charlie" would probably be subject to an objection under Article 7(1)(f) of the Community Trade Mark Regulation, due to the fact that the registration of such a trade mark could be considered "contrary to public policy or to accepted principles of morality" and also on the basis of Article 7(1)(b) as being devoid of distinctive character."

This reasoning is also the one recently adopted by the French High Court1 when it pronounced the nullity of the trademarks « I Paris » and « J' Paris »...

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