A Growing Number of Intentions of Registering the “Je Suis Charlie” Statement as a Trademark


Since 7 January when attackers in Paris broke into the office of “Charlie Hebdo” and killed 12 people, both in the press and in social networking websites or public events, people speaking for freedom of speech and freedom of expression began using the slogan “Je suis Charlie”.

There has been a number of persons who attempted registering the slogan as a trademark in order to obtain exclusive rights to it. According to BBC, over 50 persons filed a trademark application for “Je suis Charlie” in France alone.

There were also people attempting to register the trademarks “Je suis Charlie” registered throughout the European Union. Despite the fact that the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (Trademarks and Designs) – an institution registering the Community trademarks – is usually withholding comments on any individual trademark applications or registrations, the Office expressed its official position regarding the situation.

According to the Office, exclusive rights granted in connection to the “Je suis Charlie” trademark could come in conflict with the public interest”. It is likely that such trademarks would not satisfy absolute requirements for a Community trademark, i.e. such marks would be considered to be devoid of distinctive character and contrary to public policy or accepted principles of morality, and therefore excluded from registration.

Furthermore, the “Je suis Charlie” slogan could be protected neither by copyright, as it is not to be considered a result of the creative act, nor by the competition law, because it is unlikely the use of the slogan could harm another entity’s ability to compete, the effect prohibited under the Law on Competition. On the other hand, enterprises cannot be prohibited from using the slogan in their corporate activities with an intent to express their position on the freedom of speech, expression or another aspect.

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