Last week the European Court ruled that the word PAKI can't
be registered as a trade mark. No surprise there - EU law, like
ours, says that you can't register names that are contrary to
law or morality, or likely to give offence to a class of persons.
For the benefit of readers in the platteland, I should perhaps
point out that PAKI is not simply an illiterate form of
'pakkie'(which for the benefit of readers in Durban, I
should point out is a small parcel), but a derogatory term used by
some in the UK for people of Pakistani origin, although it must be
said that the average user of the term is unlikely to give much
thought to whether the person he's dissing (or worse still,
bashing) originates from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka.
The European Court was not swayed by the argument that some people
of Pakistani origin are quite happy to use the word themselves, and
are clearly not offended by it. A bit Big Brother all this -
'We'll tell you what you find offensive.'
So political correctness does play a role in trade marks. But
just how much? Years back, the UK authorities refused applications
to register the names 4 POOFS & A PIANO and JESUS, on the basis
that they would offend clearly definable classes of persons –
an application for TINY PENIS was also refused, although the
offended class of persons was not as clearly identifiable, nor, I
would imagine, were many blokes scrambling to identify themselves
as being part of this class. And whilst we're on the topic of
smutty marks, FOOK was refused in the UK, whereas DOG's BUM was
allowed in SA. But given our racial sensitivities, a racial epithet
is unlikely to ever be accepted. And that's likely to be the
case even if the word has other meanings or connotations. So Mr
Basson, even if you feel that Checkers simply has to have a WHITEY
range, I'm afraid you're not going to register it. And if
your name's Swart, bear in mind that not only is your surname
likely to be a problem, but so may your first name, which is almost
certainly Blackie. Opening a new Indian restaurant – re-think
that CURRYMUNCHERS name won't you? A trendy new cocktail bar in
Hout Bay - drop the HOUTIES. A new range of chips – you can
do much better than SOUTIES. What's that you say, you lot from
HILLCREST ORANGE, NARTJIE, KUMQUAT YOGHURT, you're finding the
name a bit unwieldy and you're thinking of slimming down to the
acronym – fegeddaboutit!
So how is that we still have companies with names like Afcon and
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It has always been the practice of the Industrial Property Institute of Mozambique to prohibit the refiling of trade marks that have been finally refused, which has posed a serious obstacle to trade mark applicants...
A recent Australian decision on keyword usage of a registered trade mark is in line with decisions in many other countries, including South Africa.
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