WIPR Influential Women in IP 2020
are IP offices behind
Last year the UK Intellectual Property Office ran
into the same problem that its US counterpart
faced three years ago: what happens when the
meaning of traditionally offensive or abusive
terms changes, and how should IP offices react?
Rory O’Neill reports.
lot of thought has been given to offensive
trademarks over the past few years, with
several cases taking the spotlight.
Since 2017, the US Supreme Court
has issued two landmark rulings which have rendered
obstacles to registering “offensive” marks increasingly
In the EU, meanwhile, the focus has turned to
the role of the European Union Intellectual Property
Office (EUIPO) in guarding against the registration
of marks which violate “accepted morality”.
The Court of Justice of the European Union
ruled in February that the EUIPO couldn’t block the
registration of a mark for ‘Fack Ju Göhte’ (F*ck You,
Goethe) on the grounds that it was likely to cause
International practice seems to be turning towards
IP offices adopting more of a laissez-faire approach
when it comes to making moral judgements.
Behind the times?
It was curious, then, when last October a controversy
arose over the UK Intellectual Property Office’s
(IPO) refusal to register a mark for ‘Queers & Co’.
The application was filed by LGBTQ+ activist Gem
Kennedy for her company of the same name.
Queers & Co publishes a magazine which explores
issues around body positivity for a LGBTQ+ audience.
According to the letter of refusal Kennedy received
from the IPO, the term “queer” could be used in a way
that was “contrary to acceptable moral values”.
initially felt that
to ‘queers’, and
be taken from
it, justified the
raising of an
Natasha Chick, UK IPO