EU General Court Refuses To Allow St. Andrews Links To Trademark 'St. Andrews' For All The Things

from the fore! dept

For those of us who have fallen in love with the world’s most personally infuriating sport, golf, the name The St. Andrews Links Golf Course is of course quite notable. The famed “Cathedral of Golf” also happens to be located in a town of the same name, St. Andrews in Scotland. St. Andrews is a fairly common term in the naming of locations and famous landmarks. Despite this, The Saint Andrews Links went to the EU’s Intellectual Property Office to request it be granted a trademark for “St. Andrews” in roughly every category, including broadly in apparel and sports goods. When that request was denied in 2016 on grounds that location names have high bars to clear to get trademarks and are therefore relatively rarely granted, St. Andrews Links took its case to Luxembourg on appeal.

There, the EU General Court dismissed the appeal, arguing again that “St. Andrews” is primarily a reference to the town of St. Andrews, not to any provider of the type of goods that St. Andrews Links wanted to hold trademarks for.

But having had its application to the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) turned down in 2016, an appeal against the decision has now been dismissed by the EU General Court in Luxembourg.  According to official documents, the appeal board argued “the expression ‘St Andrews’ referred above all to a town known for its golf courses though not particularly for the manufacturing or marketing of clothing, footwear, headgear, games and playthings.”

The court said EU and UK law generally excludes the registration of geographical names as trade marks “where they designate specified geographical locations which are already famous, or are known for the category of goods or services concerned.”

In other words, the town itself is also well known and, because the mark applied for consisted of the name of that famous town, St. Andrews Links can’t lock up “St. Andrews” for itself in a bunch of categories not directly related to its business. Readers here will likely be nodding along, understanding that this all makes perfect sense. The reason I’m highlighting all of this is because of how frustratingly rare it is for an intellectual property office and appeals court to get this so, so right. Too often, corporate wishes are simply granted, especially when dealing with an entity like St. Andrews Links, which is itself rather famous and is a point of pride for the region.

It sure would be nice if other IPOs applied the intent of the law this strictly.

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Companies: st. andrews links

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Comments on “EU General Court Refuses To Allow St. Andrews Links To Trademark 'St. Andrews' For All The Things”

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Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Broken Inputs

I get it, It’s about control. Control for economic reasons. Or is it political reasons? Or is it just about overpowering all others around your sphere?

The question is where did this idea of control come from? I don’t mean simple control, but control over everything? Was it from earlier corporate entities, or from examples of government? Or just the idea of emulating previous powerful people?

Then there is the question of desire. Desire for control. Is it innate? Does it come within our genes? Is it something society instills? Is there a preternatural impulse that causes people to want control over everything related to them or their work or their personalities or their environment?

It doesn’t exist in everyone. Some people have control over their control impulses and don’t impugn them over everyone around them. Others, not so much.

Is it actually a disease? An aberration of personality? Something learned? Something done in imitation of adulated others? Is is something that should be desired? If so, why doesn’t everyone have this impulse?

Should we, as the several societies that make up our world disdain this idea of control? If someone wants to control others then they should be, I don’t know, at least remonstrated and kept from the ability to control others. Should that desire, that wanting to be in control be a warning sign of other undesirable traits?

There is a need for leaders. For someone to be the head of a company. For someone to be, at least for a time, the head of a country. But leaders with control issues are actually toxic, both to the entities they lead but to all those around them. Yet we keep putting people with control issues in positions of power. To wit, check out our current dear leader.

Part of the problem is that when choosing bosses we pick the wrong people. In some instances we pick the highest achievers, rather than the best supervisor. The best supervisor would probably make the better manager, the highest achiever is likely someone who has some portion of the control issue syndrome. We need both, but to put someone in a position of power because they are the highest achiever, rather than the better manager is a mistake we keep making. Both from a political standpoint, and a business one.

Ben (profile) says:

Re: Broken Inputs

I’ve often said that the desire to be a career politician (of any non-voluntary flavour), be it Congress-critter, Senator, MP, MEP, or anything similar, should be seen as a seriously de-qualifying black mark against the individual.

One needs to have a certain degree of sociopathy to be willing to stand up before your peers and ask them to vote for you ahead of others equally qualified for a post.
(Of course, I bet Trump doesn’t see the electorate as his peers, but as his subjects and minions!)

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Broken Inputs

I’ve often said that the desire to be a career politician (of any non-voluntary flavour), be it Congress-critter, Senator, MP, MEP, or anything similar, should be seen as a seriously de-qualifying black mark against the individual.

I’ve thought the same before, but I’ve been rethinking that stance lately. Back when I wore a younger man’s clothes, I voted for Ross Perot (twice!) because I liked his ideas and thought he could change how K Street works through his business knowledge and aptitude.

Now that we have actually voted in a businessman as President, I am realizing I might have been a bit naive in that stance. The Presidency requires diplomacy, tact, decorum and the ability to compromise in order to be effective. Leaders of large businesses are accustomed to their whims being followed without question and that is not how our government is set up, with good reason.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Broken Inputs

Follow the money. In this case, imaginary money.

Some people are stupid enough to believe that IPR, i.e. trademarks, copyrights, and patents, etc., have value in and of themselves. When they believe that, they believe they can own words, colours, shapes, and even the feel of things. It’s like the dollar signs in their eyes get in the way of actually seeing how things work in the real world.

Am I the only one who clocked that obscure band getting well and truly owned by all of Twitter for having a go at Amanda Palmer for using a phrase in one of her songs that they’d used in one of theirs? Same idea.

It’s the massive sense of entitlement I can’t be dealing with.

Vic B (profile) says:

Re: Broken Inputs

If I correctly recall my history book from long , long ago, the Brits first set out to fence off their properties to establish ownership. Property rights are the fundamentals of capitalism which, I think you equate to “control”. Anyone or group wishing to better their condition figures out a way to protect their “acquis” (hard to translate French word meaning earned/owned). The lord fences his land, the corporation copyrights its products, labor force creates unions, bubble wine from a region prevents everyone else from calling itself champagne. One of the consequences of this control, is wealth generation (value add) and once you have it, it’s really difficult to give it up.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Sure, but?

They trademarked their names only within the areas they operate. If you look at the history of Apple, they’ve got in a lot of trouble with the Beatles’ record label Apple Records because they started operating in the music industry.

That’s the issue here – St Andrews Links aren’t just trying to trademark the name in their core industry, but also in other industries. If they were only attempting to trademark for golfing, there wouldn’t be a problem.

cpt kangarooski says:

Re: Re: Sure, but?

Apple Computers started getting in trouble with Apple Corps. in the 1970s when the computers couldn’t do anything more musical than beep. There was another suit when midi and a sound chip were added in the mid-80s, once in the early 90s for a musical-sounding system beep, and then finally in the 2000s when they started to get into the music industry.

So there was arguably a problem with the record company being too litigious.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Sure, but?

You’re off in several places, and oversimplifying greatly here.

The original lawsuit was for trademark violation in an area where Apple Corp was trademarked. That is, one of the trademarks they owned was Apple Electronics, and was created because they had tried to set up a short lived electronics arm. Nothing frivolous there, really, and nothing to do with music to begin with.

However, part of the agreement was that the corp would not enter the computer industry, and that the computer company would not enter the music business. What following is an argument over what “music business” means. But, let’s look at the facts:

1986 – lawsuit over MIDI. What is MIDI, why only the industry standard for controlling electronic music production, present in everything from sequencers to instruments. Was this frivolous in terms of the above? I think not. The Atari ST, with a smilier MIDI setup was cheaper and thus more popular this side of the pond, and I can name numerous albums whose production was controlled by one via MIDI.

1991 – the sosume lawsuit over a sampled system sound. Not, that seems a little over litigious, but here we are in the early days of electronic distribution. If that sampled sound used here is being distributed, when tech improves why not long sampled sounds, until they are able to be actual music tracks? Is that really overdoing it? It may have seemed silly at the time with 1.44Mb floppies and 33K modems, but it makes sense in hindsight.

2003 – Apple Computers sets up a literal digital record store. that doesn’t exactly seem to be in the spirit of the agreement not to enter the music industry, does it?

Now, I think both companies were being stupid at different points here and that the eventual settlement could have been achieved amicably years before the iTunes Store was launched. But as an example of over litigation, I don’t think it really applies unless you try to make it seem frivolous.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I too am St.A Uni alumni.
It is oldest uni in Scotland (3rd oldest in UK after Oxbridge duo)
Plus St.A used to have a cathedral (reflecting its importance until Scottish reformation caused Catholic church purge) and was (for a while, back in the day) home of the Scottish parliament (hence Parliament Hall building)
It may be a small place but St.A hugely significant in Scottish History and judge was definitely correct.
Any non golf enthusiast in UK (& a lot of people despise golf in UK, e.g. my partner & I) is just as likely to associate St.A with filming of Oscar winning “Chariots of Fire” beach run scenes than golf.
Sorry for sounding like a Wiki article, but I enjoyed my time in St.A and it was about so much more than golf (I never played golf in all my time there!)

Call me Al says:

Re: Re: Re:

Not a St. Andrews alumni myself, it was my reserve after Durham. However I can well imagine some amusement and/or rage from students if they discovered they were somehow blocked from sticking St. Andrews on their university stash (UK slang term for clothes with University names, logos etc. at least back around 2003 – 2006 when I was at Uni).

Pete Austin says:

Also Saint Andrew is the Patron Saint of Scotland

… and Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, San Andres Island (Colombia), Saint Andrew (Barbados), Tenerife.

The Scottish Flag, the Saltire, is the Cross of St Andrew.

It’s absurd that any organization would want to deny their fellow Scots from referencing their country’s saint.

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