Picking the perfect name

27-02-2017

Maria Zamkova

Svensson used to be the most common Swedish surname, and that is the name still attached by SCB Statistics Sweden—an administrative agency that reports on all kinds of statistics for decision making, debate and research—to the “average Swedish family”.

However, Svensson is not the name of some well-known Swedish people, including sportsmen Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Björn Borg, who have registered their personal names as trademarks.

‘Zlatan’ has been a Swedish word mark registration since June 19, 2003, covering “computer programs” in class 9, “bags” in class 18, and “clothes, footwear, headgear” in class 25. The full name ‘Zlatan Ibrahimovic’ was registered on January 29, 2015 as an EU trademark, now covering goods and services in 18 different classes.

‘Björn Borg’ was initially registered in 1995 for all goods and services in classes 3, 25 and 28, and Borg has since expanded the trademark protection to cover the EU, US, Mexico, Japan and several other countries around the world.

So, back to Svensson. If you are not a well-known athlete, movie star or writer, can you still create a personal identity by using your surname?

With the growing trend to have your personal Twitter account, Facebook page and similar sites, the Swedish Patent and Registration Office (PRV) has seen a continuous increase in personalised applications. And we are not talking about trademark applications—the opportunity to change your surname has become very popular.

PRV received 9,261 new surname applications in 2016, compared to 846 in 1994 and 4,178 in 1998. The number of surname applications was in fact slightly higher than the Swedish national trademark applications in 2016: 9,132 (cf. 9,838 applications in 1998).

"To make it easy, PRV created an online surname database, where you can find examples of free new surnames to create your new personal trademark."

You can create and register your own new unique surname if it is not already a Swedish registered trademark, a title on someone else’s protected literary or artistic works, an artist’s name (ie, for public figures such as singers, actors, painters, musicians), or a well-known foreign surname.

Examples of rejected surname applications are:

Anncoccozz—“a name that to the formation, pronunciation or spelling is such a linguistic form that it is not suitable as a surname in Sweden”.

Asterix—“a title on someone else’s protected and distinctive literary work”.

Donadoni—“a well-known foreign surname”, in this case Italian football manager Roberto Donadoni (who works at Bologna).

To make it easy, PRV created an online surname database (http://was.prv.se/NAMTWeb/), where you can find examples of free new surnames to create your new personal trademark.

What about Hjortarv (“Deerinheritance”), Åkvåg (“Ridewave”), Frostehem (“Frostyhome”), Nyguld (“Newgold”), or Lohög (“Lynxpile”)?

It will soon be even less complicated to get your own personal trademark in Sweden.

On July 1, 2017, the Swedish Tax Agency will take over the responsibility of surname registrations from PRV. At the same time, a new law on personal names will enter into force. Among the changes are that a) all surnames shall be acquired by application (automatic acquisition by birth or adoption is abolished); b) the most common surnames in Sweden become free for all; c) it will also be possible with a “double surname” (two separate surnames); and d) the current obstacles to changing the first name or surname several times are removed.

Maria Zamkova is CEO of Fenix Legal. She can be contacted at: maria.zamkova@fenixlegal.eu 

Maria Zamkova, Fenix Legal, Svensson, SCB Statistics Sweden, Björn Borg, trademark, Swedish registered trademark, artistic work, painter, actor, musician,

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