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A Freedom of Expression Right to Register “Immoral” Trademarks and Trademarks Contrary to Public Order

Abstract

Recently, in a judgment on the “Fack Ju Göhte” case, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) acknowledged that freedom of expression must be taken into account when applying the absolute ground for refusal of trademark registration related to public policy or to accepted principles of morality. Even prior to this pronouncement by the CJEU, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) had already confirmed that the refusal of trademark registration, as such, implicates the speech rights of trademark applicants. The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), likewise, had admitted on a number of occasions that the trademark applicant seeking registration of an “immoral” trademark or a trademark contrary to public order has a right “to freely employ words and images in the signs it wishes to register as trademarks”. This article explains what the freedom of expression grounding of the rights of trademark applicants to the so-called “immoral” trademarks and/or trademarks contrary to public order might mean for the future of these absolute grounds for refusal of trademark registration in Europe. It does so by reviewing, first, whether the wording and practical application of these grounds for refusal comply with the standards that can be derived from Art. 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). It then examines particularities of the free speech analysis with regards to religious, sexually obscene or otherwise “immoral” signs, as well as with regards to the signs amounting to hate speech or other speech presumably dangerous to public order.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Article 4(1)(f) of Directive (EU) 2015/2436 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2015 to approximate the laws of the Member States relating to trade marks (Text with EEA relevance), OJ L 336, 23 December 2015, p. 1 (hereinafter “EU Trade Mark Directive 2015/2436”) and Art. 7(1)(f) of Regulation (EU) 2017/1001 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 June 2017 on the European Union trade mark (Text with EEA relevance), OJ L 154, 16 June 2017, p. 1 (hereinafter “EU Trademark Regulation 2017/1001”).

  2. 2.

    For a detailed analysis of the impact of the right to freedom of expression on this ground for refusal of trademark registration, see Griffiths (2008), Geiger and Pontes (2017), Ricolfi (2020), p. 618–622.

  3. 3.

    CJEU, Judgment in Constantin Film Produktion v. EUIPO, C-240/18 P, 27 February 2020, EU:C:2020:118, para. 56.

  4. 4.

    ECtHR, Csibi v. Romania (dec.), No. 16632/12, 4 June 2019, CE:ECHR:2019:0604DEC001663212, para. 37.

  5. 5.

    OHIM, Decision of the Grand Board of 6 July 2006 in Case R 495/2005-G, SCREW YOU, para. 14; OHIM, Decision of the Operations Department of 30 November 2012 on App. No. 011119716, PSRS; OHIM, Decision of the Cancellation Division of 24 October 2014 No. 6985 C, EAST INDIA COMPANY GUINEA (Word) v. (Trade mark without text); OHIM, Decision of the Cancellation Division of 29 October 2014 No. 6988 C, E I C GUINEA (Figurative) v. (Trade mark without text); OHIM, Decision of the Fifth Board of Appeal of 6 February 2015 in Case R 2804/2014-5, MECHANICAL APARTHEID, para. 11; OHIM, Decision of the Fifth Board of Appeal of 7 March 2016 in Case R 875/2015-5, HexaBody.

  6. 6.

    See, notably, Art. 52(3) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (26 October 2012, 2012/C 326/02) stating that the rights contained in the Charter which correspond to the rights guaranteed by the ECHR are to have the same meaning and scope as those laid down by the ECHR.

  7. 7.

    See, among others, ECtHR, Janowski v. Poland [GC], No. 25716/94, 21 January 1999, CE:ECHR:1999:0121JUD002571694; ECtHR, Andreas Wabl v. Austria, No. 24773/94, 21 March 2000, CE:ECHR:2000:0321JUD002477394; ECtHR, Tammer v. Estonia, No. 41205/98, 6 February 2001, CE:ECHR:2001:0206JUD004120598; ECtHR, Annen v. Germany (No. 6), No. 3779/11, 18 October 2018, CE:ECHR:2018:1018JUD000377911.

  8. 8.

    See a number of EUIPO’s decisions stating that “[the public policy and immorality ground for refusal] necessarily entails balancing the right of traders to freely employ words and images in the signs they wish to register as trade marks against the right of the public not to be confronted with disturbing, abusive, insulting and even threatening trade marks” (OHIM, Decision of the Grand Board of 6 July 2006 in Case R 495/2005-G, SCREW YOU, para. 14; OHIM, Decision of the Cancellation Division of 29 October 2014 No. 6988 C, E I C GUINEA (Figurative) v. (Trade mark without text); OHIM, Decision of the Fifth Board of Appeal of 6 February 2015 in Case R 2804/2014-5, MECHANICAL APARTHEID, para. 11).

  9. 9.

    See, e.g., Zoller (2009), p. 806.

  10. 10.

    ECtHR, Handyside v. the United Kingdom, No. 5493/72, 7 December 1976, CE:ECHR:1976:1207JUD000549372, para. 49 (emphasis added). Analogously, on the other side of the Atlantic, the US Supreme Court proclaimed in 1989 that, “[i]f there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable” (US Supreme Court, Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397, 414 (21 June 1989)). See also US Supreme Court, Street v. New York, 394 U.S. 576, 592 (21 April 1969): “[The] public expression of ideas may not be prohibited merely because the ideas are themselves offensive to some of their hearers.”

  11. 11.

    See, e.g., ECtHR, Rujak v. Croatia (dec.), No. 57942/10, 2 October 2012, CE:ECHR:2012:1002DEC005794210.

  12. 12.

    Id.

  13. 13.

    ECtHR, Maguire v. the United Kingdom (dec.), No. 58060/13, 3 March 2015, CE:ECHR:2015:0303DEC005806013, para. 48; ECtHR, Do Carmo de Portugal e Castro Câmara v. Portugal, No. 53139/11, 4 October 2016, CE:ECHR:2016:1004JUD005313911, para. 43. See also ECtHR, Mamère v. France, No. 12697/03, 7 November 2006, CE:ECHR:2006:1107JUD001269703, para. 25; ECtHR, Dąbrowski v. Poland, No. 18235/02, 19 December 2006, CE:ECHR:2006:1219JUD001823502, para. 35; ECtHR, Lindon, Otchakovsky-Laurens and July v. France [GC], Nos. 21279/02 and 36448/02, 22 October 2007, CE:ECHR:2007:1022JUD002127902, para. 56; ECtHR, Marian Maciejewski v. Poland, No. 34447/05, 13 January 2015, CE:ECHR:2015:0113JUD003444705, para. 79; ECtHR, Verlagsgruppe Droemer Knaur GmbH & Co. KG v. Germany, No. 35030/13, 19 October 2017, CE:ECHR:2017:1019JUD003503013, para. 54.

  14. 14.

    ECtHR, Uj v. Hungary, No. 23954/10, 19 July 2011, CE:ECHR:2011:0719JUD002395410, para. 23.

  15. 15.

    ECtHR, Grebneva and Alisimchik v. Russia, No. 8918/05, 22 November 2016, CE:ECHR:2016:1122JUD000891805, para. 58.

  16. 16.

    ECtHR, Mustafa Erdoğan and Others v. Turkey, Nos. 346/04 and 39779/04, 27 May 2014, CE:ECHR:2014:0527JUD000034604.

  17. 17.

    ECtHR, Thorgeir Thorgeirson v. Iceland, No. 13778/88, 25 June 1992, CE:ECHR:1992:0625JUD001377888.

  18. 18.

    See, e.g., ECtHR, Dalban v. Romania [GC], No. 28114/95, 28 September 1999, CE:ECHR:1999:0928JUD002811495; ECtHR, Kobenter and Standard Verlags Gmbh v. Austria, No. 60899/00, 2 November 2006, CE:ECHR:2006:1102JUD006089900; ECtHR, Otegi Mondragon v. Spain, No. 2034/07, 15 March 2011, CE:ECHR:2011:0315JUD000203407; ECtHR, Tuşalp v. Turkey, Nos. 32131/08 and 41617/08, 21 February 2012, CE:ECHR:2012:0221JUD003213108; ECtHR, Mengi v. Turkey, Nos. 13471/05 and 38787/07, 27 November 2012, CE:ECHR:2012:1127JUD001347105; ECtHR, Ungváry and Irodalom Kft v. Hungary, No. 64520/10, 3 December 2013, CE:ECHR:2013:1203JUD006452010; ECtHR, Ziembiński v. Poland (No. 2), No. 1799/07, 5 July 2016, CE:ECHR:2016:0705JUD000179907; ECtHR, Szanyi v. Hungary, No. 35493/13, 8 November 2016, CE:ECHR:2016:1108JUD003549313; ECtHR, Stern Taulats et Roura Capellera v. Spain, Nos. 51168/15 and 51186/15, 13 March 2018, CE:ECHR:2018:0313JUD005116815; ECtHR, Narodni List d.d. v. Croatia, No. 2782/12, 8 November 2018, CE:ECHR:2018:1108JUD000278212.

  19. 19.

    US Supreme Court, Matal v. Tam, 137 S. Ct. 1744 (19 June 2017).

  20. 20.

    The US Supreme Court considered, namely, that the Lanham Act provision which prohibited registration of disparaging trademarks such as “Slants” amounted to a viewpoint discrimination, since, under the First Amendment law, giving offence is also a viewpoint (US Supreme Court, Matal v. Tam, 137 S. Ct. 1744 (19 June 2017)).

  21. 21.

    See Arts. 86(3) and 86a(3) of the German Criminal Code of 1871 (as amended up to Act of 30 October 2017), https://wipolex.wipo.int/en/legislation/details/17669. Accessed 17 February 2021.

  22. 22.

    German Federal Supreme Court (Bundesgerichtshof), No. 3 StR 486/06, 15 March 2007, cited and discussed in ECtHR, Nix v. Germany (dec.), No. 35285/16, 13 March 2018, CE:ECHR:2018:0313DEC003528516, para. 32. Note, however, that where the display of the banned signs has multiple meanings or where the rejection of the ideas related to such signs cannot be clearly recognised, such a display contravenes the provision’s purpose and is not exempted from its scope. Moreover, in the light of the provision’s “taboo function”, it is not sufficient that a certain conduct pursued the aim of criticising in order for it to be exempted from the provision’s scope (see German Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht), No. 1 BvR 204/03, 23 March 2006, cited and discussed in ECtHR, Nix v. Germany (dec.), No. 35285/16, 13 March 2018, CE:ECHR:2018:0313DEC003528516, para. 32).

  23. 23.

    ECtHR, Nix v. Germany (dec.), No. 35285/16, 13 March 2018, CE:ECHR:2018:0313DEC003528516, para. 48.

  24. 24.

    According to the Boards, notably, “there is no need to establish that the applicant wants to shock or insult the public concerned; the fact that the EUTM applied for might be seen as such is sufficient” (EUIPO, Decision of the Fifth Board of Appeal of 29 November 2018 in Case R 1516/2018-5, W GIRLS DOING WHATEVER THE F ____ THEY WANT (fig.), para. 19, citing OHIM, Decision of the First Board of Appeal of 23 October 2009 in Case R 1805/2007-1, PAKI, para. 27, confirmed by General Court, Judgment in PAKI, T-526/09, 5 October 2011, EU:T:2011:564, para. 20 et seq.).

  25. 25.

    EUIPO, Decision of the Fifth Board of Appeal of 29 November 2018 in Case R 1516/2018-5, W GIRLS DOING WHATEVER THE F ____ THEY WANT (fig.), para. 19, citing OHIM, Decision of the First Board of Appeal of 23 October 2009 in Case R 1805/2007-1, PAKI, para. 27, confirmed by General Court, Judgment in PAKI, T-526/09, 5 October 2011, EU:T:2011:564, para. 20 et seq. For the analogous findings on irrelevance of the applicant’s intentions within the assessment of the ground for refusal based on the public order or morals, see, e.g., EUIPO, Decision of the Operations Department of 29 October 2018 on App. No. 017921384, SS (Figurative).

  26. 26.

    EUIPO, Decision of the Fifth Board of Appeal of 29 November 2018 in Case R 1516/2018-5, W GIRLS DOING WHATEVER THE F ____ THEY WANT (fig.), para. 6.

  27. 27.

    Id., para. 29 (emphasis added), with further references to OHIM, Decision of the Second Board of Appeal of 23 February 2015 in Case R 793/2014-2, FUCK CANCER, para. 23.

  28. 28.

    OHIM, Decision of the Fourth Board of Appeal of 2 September 2015 in Case R 519/2015-4, JEWISH MONKEYS.

  29. 29.

    OHIM, Decision of 22 January 2015 on the application No. 013104823, JEWISH MONKEYS, https://euipo.europa.eu/eSearchCLW/#advanced. Accessed 17 February 2021.

  30. 30.

    Id., para. 1.

  31. 31.

    Id.

  32. 32.

    EUIPO, Decision of the Fourth Board of Appeal of 2 September 2015 in Case R 519/2015-4, JEWISH MONKEYS, para. 17.

  33. 33.

    Id.

  34. 34.

    Id., para. 16.

  35. 35.

    ECtHR, Uj v. Hungary, No. 23954/10, 19 July 2011, CE:ECHR:2011:0719JUD002395410, para. 20. See also ECtHR, Tuşalp v. Turkey, Nos. 32131/08 and 41617/08, 21 February 2012, CE:ECHR:2012:0221JUD003213108, para. 48; ECtHR, Mustafa Erdoğan and Others v. Turkey, Nos. 346/04 and 39779/04, 27 May 2014, CE:ECHR:2014:0527JUD000034604, para. 45; ECtHR, Magyar Tartalomszolgáltatók Egyesülete and Index.hu Zrt v. Hungary, No. 22947/13, 2 February 2016, CE:ECHR:2016:0202JUD002294713, para. 76; ECtHR, Grebneva and Alisimchik v. Russia, No. 8918/05, 22 November 2016, CE:ECHR:2016:1122JUD000891805, para. 52; ECtHR, Savva Terentyev v. Russia, No. 10692/09, 28 August 2018, CE:ECHR:2018:0828JUD001069209, para. 68.

  36. 36.

    Id.

  37. 37.

    OHIM, Decision of the Grand Board of 6 July 2006 in Case R 495/2005-G, SCREW YOU, para. 19.

  38. 38.

    Id.

  39. 39.

    Bonadio (2015) p. 43.

  40. 40.

    As explained by Barendt (2007) p. 189, “[t]he ridicule of religious belief or believers is not political speech in the narrow sense, but is part of public discourse, that is speech concerning the organization and culture of society. Public discourse includes discussion of religious questions, whether or not they are matters of dispute between political parties.”

  41. 41.

    ECtHR, Giniewski v. France, No. 64016/00, 31 January 2006, CE:ECHR:2006:0131JUD006401600.

  42. 42.

    ECtHR, Aydın Tatlav v. Turkey, No. 50692/99, 2 May 2006, CE:ECHR:2006:0502JUD005069299.

  43. 43.

    ECtHR, Sekmadienis Ltd. v. Lithuania, No. 69317/14, 30 January 2018, CE:ECHR:2018:0130JUD006931714.

  44. 44.

    ECtHR, Mariya Alekhina and Others v. Russia, No. 38004/12, 17 July 2018, CE:ECHR:2018:0717JUD003800412.

  45. 45.

    See Rosati (2018a, b).

  46. 46.

    ECtHR, Sekmadienis Ltd. v. Lithuania, No. 69317/14, 30 January 2018, CE:ECHR:2018:0130JUD006931714.

  47. 47.

    Id. para. 79.

  48. 48.

    OHIM, Decision of the First Board of Appeal of 10 September 2015 in Case R 510/2013-1, REPRESENTATION D’UNE CROIX.

  49. 49.

    Benelux Office for Intellectual Property, application No. 1260522, decision of 8 January 2013, IEF 12213, reported (in Dutch) at: https://www.ie-forum.nl/artikelen/na-beeldmerk-nu-ook-een-depot-voor-het-woordmerk-allah. Accessed 17 February 2021. Note, however, that the ground to refuse registration in this case was the lack of distinctive character and not the sign’s contradiction to the principles of religious morality.

  50. 50.

    German Federal Patent Court (Bundespatentgericht), Coran, No. 25W (pat) 394/84, 16 January 1986.

  51. 51.

    German Federal Patent Court (Bundespatentgericht), Dalailama, No. 24W (pat) 140/01, 25 June 2002.

  52. 52.

    German Federal Patent Court (Bundespatentgericht), Buddha, No. 28W (pat) 66/06, 17 January 2007.

  53. 53.

    German Federal Patent Court (Bundespatentgericht), Pontifex, No. 26W (pat) 117/06, 23 April 2008.

  54. 54.

    UK Intellectual Property Office, JESUS [Basic’s Trade Mark Application], BL No. O/021/05, 18 January 2005.

  55. 55.

    Id., para. 26. The Office also admitted, however, that “[t]here will be cases where the need to adopt a proportionate response to the problem of antisocial branding requires less than 100% rejection of the request for registration” (id.).

  56. 56.

    OHIM, Decision of the Grand Board of 6 July 2006 in Case R 495/2005-G, SCREW YOU, para. 24, referring to the decision of the UK Intellectual Property Office, JESUS [Basic’s Trade Mark Application], BL No. O/021/05, 18 January 2005.

  57. 57.

    Pointing to the dangers inherent in the private appropriation, through the trademark protection, of cultural artifacts, see Waldron (1993), p. 884–885. See also Anemaet (2016), Senftleben (2015), and Senftleben (2021, forthcoming).

  58. 58.

    ECtHR, Handyside v. the United Kingdom, No. 5493/72, 7 December 1976, CE:ECHR:1976:1207JUD000549372.

  59. 59.

    ECtHR, Müller and Others v. Switzerland, No. 10737/84, 24 May 1988, CE:ECHR:1988:0524JUD001073784, para. 36.

  60. 60.

    ECommHR, S. and G. v. the United Kingdom (dec.), No. 17634/91, 2 September 1991, CE:ECHR:1991:0902DEC001763491.

  61. 61.

    ECtHR, Karttunen v. Finland (dec.), No. 1685/10, 10 May 2011, CE:ECHR:2011:0510DEC000168510.

  62. 62.

    ECtHR, Palomo Sánchez and Others v. Spain [GC], Nos. 28955/06, 28957/06, 28959/06 and 28964/06, 12 September 2011, CE:ECHR:2011:0912JUD002895506.

  63. 63.

    ECtHR, Open Door and Dublin Well Woman v. Ireland, Nos. 14234/88 and 14235/88, 29 October 1992, CE:ECHR:1992:1029JUD001423488.

  64. 64.

    ECommHR, S. v. Switzerland (report (31)), No. 17116/90, 14 January 1993, CE:ECHR:1993:0114REP001711690.

  65. 65.

    ECtHR, Vereinigung Bildender Künstler v. Austria, No. 68354/01, 25 January 2007, CE:ECHR:2007:0125JUD006835401.

  66. 66.

    ECtHR, Women On Waves and Others v. Portugal, No. 31276/05, 3 February 2009, CE:ECHR:2009:0203JUD003127605.

  67. 67.

    ECtHR, Bayev and Others v. Russia, Nos. 67667/09, 44092/12 and 56717/12, 20 June 2017, CE:ECHR:2017:0620JUD006766709.

  68. 68.

    ECtHR, Unifaun Theatre Productions Limited and Others v. Malta, No. 37326/13, 15 May 2018, CE:ECHR:2018:0515JUD003732613.

  69. 69.

    ECtHR, Mătăsaru v. the Republic of Moldova, Nos. 69714/16 and 71685/16, 15 January 2019, CE:ECHR:2019:0115JUD006971416.

  70. 70.

    Additional guidance as to the types of restrictions that are more likely to be justified by the aim of protecting sexual morals is provided by the case law under Art. 8 (right to private life) of the ECHR. Thus, the Strasbourg Court upheld the applicant’s conviction for sadomasochistic practices (ECommHR, Laskey, Jaggard and Brown v. the United Kingdom (dec.), Nos. 21627/93, 21826/93 and 21974/93, 18 January 1995, CE:ECHR:1995:0118DEC002162793), but found that the laws criminalising homosexuality (ECtHR, Dudgeon v. the United Kingdom, No. 7525/76, 22 October 1981, CE:ECHR:1981:1022JUD000752576) and restrictions on obtaining an abortion (ECtHR, A, B and C v. Ireland [GC], No. 25579/05, 16 December 2010, CE:ECHR:2010:1216JUD002557905) went contrary to the Convention.

  71. 71.

    OHIM, Decision of the Fourth Board of Appeal of 25 March 2003 in Case R 111/2002-4, DICK & FANNY.

  72. 72.

    Id., para. 6. See also paras. 9–10.

  73. 73.

    Id., paras. 9 and 12.

  74. 74.

    Id., para. 10.

  75. 75.

    EUIPO, Decision of the Fifth Board of Appeal of 29 November 2018 in Case R 1516/2018-5, W GIRLS DOING WHATEVER THE F ____ THEY WANT (fig.), para. 22.

  76. 76.

    Id., para. 25.

  77. 77.

    Id., para. 31.

  78. 78.

    EUIPO, Decision of the Fifth Board of Appeal of 1 December 2016 in Case R 2205/2015-5, Fack Ju Göhte; General Court, Judgment in Constantin Film Produktion v. EUIPO (Fack Ju Göhte), T-69/17, 24 January 2018, EU:T:2018:27.

  79. 79.

    CJEU, Judgment in Constantin Film Produktion v. EUIPO, C-240/18 P, 27 February 2020, EU:C:2020:118, para. 41.

  80. 80.

    Id., para. 42.

  81. 81.

    EUIPO, Decision of the Fourth Board of Appeal of 2 September 2015 in Case R 519/2015-4, JEWISH MONKEYS, para. 17.

  82. 82.

    CJEU, Judgment in Constantin Film Produktion v. EUIPO, C-240/18 P, 27 February 2020, EU:C:2020:118, para. 43 (emphasis added).

  83. 83.

    Id., paras. 50–53.

  84. 84.

    Id., para. 51 (emphasis added).

  85. 85.

    Id., para. 53.

  86. 86.

    Id., para. 56.

  87. 87.

    General Court, Judgment in Constantin Film Produktion v. EUIPO (Fack Ju Göhte), T-69/17, 24 January 2018, EU:T:2018:27, para. 29 (emphasis added).

  88. 88.

    CJEU, Judgment in Constantin Film Produktion v. EUIPO, C-240/18 P, 27 February 2020, EU:C:2020:118, para. 56.

  89. 89.

    Id., with further references to recital 21 of EU Trademark Regulation 2017/1001 and recital 27 of EU Trade Mark Directive 2015/2436.

  90. 90.

    EUIPO, Decision of the Fifth Board of Appeal of 12 January 2017 in Case R 1054/2016-5, touch my hole, para. 17.

  91. 91.

    Id., para. 23.

  92. 92.

    OHIM, Decision of the Grand Board of 6 July 2006 in Case R 495/2005-G, SCREW YOU, para. 19.

  93. 93.

    CTM No. 743 112, No. 945 584, No. 1 080 258, No. 2 200 558, No. 3 098 472, Nos. 3 165 867 and 3 729 332.

  94. 94.

    CTM No. 6 025 159.

  95. 95.

    CTM No. 7 024 631.

  96. 96.

    OHIM, Decision of the Second Board of Appeal of 23 February 2015 in Case R 793/2014-2, FUCK CANCER. On the arbitrariness and the lack of consistent application of allegedly immoral marks in the US context, see Beebe and Fromer (2019).

  97. 97.

    ECommHR, S. v. Switzerland (report (31)), No. 17116/90, 14 January 1993, CE:ECHR:1993:0114REP001711690, para. 59.

  98. 98.

    Id.

  99. 99.

    ECtHR, Müller and Others v. Switzerland, No. 10737/84, 24 May 1988, CE:ECHR:1988:0524JUD001073784, para. 36.

  100. 100.

    ECtHR, Handyside v. the United Kingdom, No. 5493/72, 7 December 1976, CE:ECHR:1976:1207JUD000549372, para. 52.

  101. 101.

    Id.

  102. 102.

    The European Commission of Human Rights (ECommHR) was, until 1998 – the date of its abolishment – one of the two Convention bodies alongside the ECtHR entrusted with decisions on the admissibility of applications to the Court. See Council of Europe, Protocol 11 to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Restructuring the Control Machinery Established Thereby (11 May 1994, ETS 155).

  103. 103.

    ECommHR, W. and K. v. Switzerland (dec.), No. 16564/90, 8 April 1991, CE:ECHR:1991:0408DEC001656490.

  104. 104.

    ECommHR, S. v. Switzerland (report (31)), No. 17116/90, 14 January 1993, CE:ECHR:1993:0114REP001711690, para. 62.

  105. 105.

    OHIM, Decision of the Grand Board of 6 July 2006 in Case R 495/2005-G, SCREW YOU.

  106. 106.

    Id., para. 21. See also EUIPO, Decision of the Fifth Board of Appeal of 12 January 2017 in Case R 1054/2016-5, touch my hole (rejecting the registration of the sign “touch my hole” as an EU trademark on the ground, among others, of the fact that the majority of the goods and services that that sign was supposed to cover were directed at children and young people (see para. 22 of the decision)); EUIPO, Decision of the Fifth Board of Appeal of 29 November 2018 in Case R 1516/2018-5, W GIRLS DOING WHATEVER THE F ____ THEY WANT (fig.) (allowing registration of the figurative sign “W GIRLS DOING WHATEVER THE F ____ THEY WANT” on consideration that the element “F ____” was not necessarily obvious to children who had to have the term “FUCK” in their active vocabulary in order to understand the sign applied for (see para. 28 of the decision)).

  107. 107.

    For further discussion, see, e.g., Press Unit of the ECtHR (2020), Art. 19 (2018), Bychawska-Siniarska (2017), at 23–30.

  108. 108.

    ECtHR, Handyside v. the United Kingdom, No. 5493/72, 7 December 1976, CE:ECHR:1976:1207JUD000549372, para. 49.

  109. 109.

    ECtHR, Csibi v. Romania (dec.), No. 16632/12, 4 June 2019, CE:ECHR:2019:0604DEC001663212.

  110. 110.

    Id., para. 42.

  111. 111.

    Id.

  112. 112.

    Id.

  113. 113.

    General Court, Judgment in PAKI, T-526/09, 5 October 2011, EU:T:2011:564, paras. 15 and 37.

  114. 114.

    General Court, Judgment in La Mafia Franchises v. EUIPOItalie (La Mafia SE SIENTA A LA MESA), T-1/17, 15 March 2018, EU:T:2018:146, para. 47.

  115. 115.

    Id.

  116. 116.

    ECtHR, Handyside v. the United Kingdom, No. 5493/72, 7 December 1976, CE:ECHR:1976:1207JUD000549372, para. 49 (emphasis added).

  117. 117.

    Id.

  118. 118.

    ECtHR, Murphy v. Ireland, No. 44179/98, 10 July 2003, CE:ECHR:2003:0710JUD004417998, para. 68.

  119. 119.

    Id. See also ECtHR, Joint dissenting opinion of judges Costa, Cabral Barreto and Jungwiert in the case of İ.A. v. Turkey, No. 42571/98, 13 September 2005, CE:ECHR:2005:0913JUD004257198, para. 3.

  120. 120.

    OHIM, Decision of the Operations Department of 30 November 2012 on App. No. 011119716, PSRS.

  121. 121.

    OHIM, Decision of the Second Board of Appeal of 29 September 2004 in Case R 176/2004-2, Bin Ladin.

  122. 122.

    See, respectively, OHIM, Decision of the Operations Department of 27 January 2012 on App. No. 010019503, Panzer Corps and EUIPO, Decision of the Operations Department of 29 October 2018 on App. No. 017921384, SS (Figurative).

  123. 123.

    OHIM, Decision of the Fifth Board of Appeal of 6 February 2015 in Case R 2804/2014-5, MECHANICAL APARTHEID, para. 18.

  124. 124.

    UK Intellectual Property Office, www.standupifyouhatemanu.com, BL No. O/464/02, 20 November 2002, discussed in Bonadio (2015), p. 45.

  125. 125.

    OHIM, Decision of the Fifth Board of Appeal of 11 May 2012 in Case R 2052/2011-5, HOW TO MAKE MONEY SELLING DRUGS.

  126. 126.

    Polish Patent Office, Stalinskaya, IO-694/03 (2004), upheld by the Voivodship Administrative Court in Warsaw, SC P. v. Polish Patent Office, VI SA/Wa 1863/04 (2005). Discussed in Ożóg (2009), p. 360.

  127. 127.

    EUIPO, Decision of the Fourth Board of Appeal of 2 September 2015 in Case R 519/2015-4, JEWISH MONKEYS, para. 16 (“It is […] possible for a wording that is vulgar according to the dictionary to be meant in a purely humorous way, depending on the context”).

  128. 128.

    Id., para. 17.

  129. 129.

    Id.

  130. 130.

    OHIM, Decision of the Fifth Board of Appeal of 11 May 2012 in Case R 2052/2011-5, HOW TO MAKE MONEY SELLING DRUGS, para. 3 (reciting the trademark applicant’s submissions).

  131. 131.

    Cf., mutatis mutandis, EUIPO, Decision of the Fourth Board of Appeal of 2 September 2015 in Case R 519/2015-4, JEWISH MONKEYS, para. 17 (observing that the word sign “JEWISH MONKEYS” was not intended to be used in the context of anti-Israeli political propaganda and finding this factor favouring the sign’s registration as an EU trademark) and CJEU, Judgment in Constantin Film Produktion v. EUIPO, C-240/18 P, 27 February 2020, EU:C:2020:118, para. 53 (holding that, insofar as it could be established that “the German-speaking public at large does not perceive the word sign ‘Fack Ju Göhte’ as morally unacceptable, the General Court, in concluding that that sign is incompatible with accepted principles of morality, could not rely solely on the intrinsically vulgar character of that English phrase without examining those factors or setting out conclusively the reasons why it considered, despite those factors, that the German-speaking public at large perceives that sign as running counter to the fundamental moral values and standards of society when it is used as a trade mark.”).

  132. 132.

    ECtHR, Sekmadienis Ltd. v. Lithuania, No. 69317/14, 30 January 2018, CE:ECHR:2018:0130JUD006931714.

  133. 133.

    Article 4(3)(b) of EU Trade Mark Directive 2015/2436.

  134. 134.

    ECtHR, Handyside v. the United Kingdom, No. 5493/72, 7 December 1976, CE:ECHR:1976:1207JUD000549372, para. 49.

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Izyumenko, E. A Freedom of Expression Right to Register “Immoral” Trademarks and Trademarks Contrary to Public Order. IIC 52, 893–914 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40319-021-01085-3

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Keywords

  • Trademarks and freedom of expression
  • Morality and public order ground for refusal
  • Trademark applications
  • European Court of Human Rights
  • Article 10 ECHR
  • Impact of fundamental rights