Hadrian /
14 January 2015Trademarks

French IP office throws out 50 ‘Je suis Charlie’ applications

France’s IP office has rejected 50 trademark applications for ‘Je suis Charlie’ since the terrorist attacks that shook the country.

The National Institute of Industrial Property rejected the applications due the term’s wide use by the “community”, it said.

‘Je suis Charlie’ is the phrase popularised in the wake of last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris.

Last Wednesday (January 7) gunmen killed 12 people, including eight employees of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The attacks prompted thousands of Paris residents to pour onto the streets to proclaim the message ‘Je suis Charlie’ (I am Charlie). The slogan was also used widely online.

Yesterday, WIPR reported that a trademark for the term had been filed at the Benelux Office for Intellectual Property, which administers trademarks and designs for Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

According to France’s IP office, it has rejected the 50 applications because “they do not meet the criterion of distinctive character. This slogan cannot be picked up by an economic actor because of its wide use by the community”.

Jean-Baptiste Bourgeois, a partner at law firm Bourgeois Rezac Mignon in Paris, told WIPR that the applications reflected a general trend that is “sometimes highly questionable”.

“But beyond the ethical aspect, the question here was to evaluate if ‘Je suis Charlie’ could constitute a valid registration in France,” he added.

Bourgeois said that while the expression can constitute a valid trademark per se, applications can be refused if they are considered to conflict with public order or high moral standards.

“This could have been an argument for rejecting the applications,” said Bourgeois. “However, probably to avoid a discussion about those subtle and controversial notions, the office grounded its refusals on the fact that this expression, due to its large use by the community, could not be used by an economic actor.

“In other words, the office considered it as being devoid of distinctiveness due to its large use. This approach is probably almost unique,” he said.

The decisions by the office can be appealed against.

According to Bourgeois, French trademark applications can be viewed once they are published by the office. If an application is rejected, it is not published.

A screenshot showing one of the first applications filed with the office, dated Sunday (January 11), was published on Twitter. The application covered classes including scientific apparatus and instruments.

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More on this story

13 January 2015   A trademark application for ‘Je suis Charlie’, the phrase popularised in the wake of last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris, has been filed at the Benelux Office for Intellectual Property.
15 January 2015   A trademark application for ‘Je suis Charlie’ has now been filed in the US, following similar bids across Europe.