This new application is an excellent opportunity to reflect on the trademark registration of a media hype. It is a well-known phenomenon that entrepreneurs are commercially inspired by celebratory moments or shocking events and scandals widely reported in the media. Hordes of savvy individuals are quick to find their way to the trademark register and request registrations, from Amalia (Dutch princess) to MH17 and from Je Suis Charlie to Cecil the lion.
As a trademark agency, how do we deal with these media hype related trademarks? Do we simply register whatever our clients request, or do we draw the line? Yes, we have our limits, but the bar is set high (or low if you want).
In principle, of course, it is not up to us to have an opinion about a clients’ trademark application. And we’re certainly not negative towards ‘sensation-driven’ trademark applications. Often there are some great creative ideas behind the registration, and choosing a name based on a media hype is understandable: the brand sticks immediately. A slogan like Functie Elders works: do you have that Functie Elders turtleneck sweater in white for me? I can already imagine the label on the rack.
Cofvefe and Covid
If someone wants to register the trademark Cofvefe for mugs because Trump came up with an incomprehensible tweet, if Brexit becomes a beer brand or several hundreds of commercial minds pounce on Corona and Covid, Chiever is happy to help with the registration on request.
Novichok en Amalia
But in our opinion, the bar can get even lower. The 2018 registration of the Novichok vodka brand (Novichok is the poison used that year in an attempt to kill the Russian Sergei Skcripal) has a sad undertone, but we would take the job. The same applies to the Maxima trademark (Maxima, as in the Dutch queen), an application for a perfume brand in 1999. There is a trademark for Princess Amalia, a brand of kitchen appliances that was even introduced at her birth. Sure you might think that these trademarks should belong to the person in question, but if a commercially-minded entrepreneur knocks on our door first we won’t hesitate.
George Floyd and MH17
However, things are very different if we would be approached to register the name George Floyd or the phrase I Can’t Breathe. The same goes for Je Suis Charlie. That doesn’t feel right. We’re certainly not going to cooperate with businesses cashing on this type of media hype. The reason being the gravity and impact of the event and the tackiness of the application. And we haven’t even mentioned the incomprehensible trademark registration of the name MH17.
Anyway, let’s see if Functie Elders makes it to the register at all now. Surely, we’re not going to have the rebellious member of parliament Pieter Omtzigt or Prime Minister Mark Rutte objecting! And is Functie Elders here to stay as a brand? It certainly wouldn’t be the first sensation-driven trademark to die a silent death once the hype is over. But you never know. Incidentally, in addition to clothing, we added a product group to the registration: class 1 Teflon. That’s because our Prime Minister is often referred to as ‘Teflon-Mark’. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of a silly joke. Anyhow, we expect that the Benelux Trademark Office will correct our application: Teflon is a registered trademark. I guess it would be amended to ‘polymerised polytetrafluoroethylene’.