EU Blocks 'Brexit Beer' Trademark, First As 'Offensive', Then As Non-Distinctive
from the any-means-possible dept
Brexit, as most of you will know, is still a full on mess. And, frankly, it’s been a mess since the historic vote was taken and the British public rode a wave of nationalism draped in false promises to decide to economically scuttle their own country. In the nearly three years since, the British government has managed to put on an impressive performance piece on dysfunctional government, managing to refuse to agree on how to actually implement the will of their own people.
At the same time that all of this has been going on, some opportunistic folks have been attempting to cash in on the Brexit story by trademarking the term, without even having a plan for how to use those marks. As we’ve pointed out in past posts, this sort of attempt to cash in is fully annoying, but not illegal. Which makes it sort of strange to watch the EU throw everything against the wall just to see what’s sticky enough to deny a UK brewer his trademark for Brexit Beer.
Upon first reviewing the application, the EU’s IPO denied it on the insane grounds that the term “Brexit” is offensive.
The European Union Intellectual Property Office (Euipo) denied a trademark for a ‘Brexit’ energy beverage back in 2016 after ruling the term was too ‘offensive’ to put on a can. An official had felt ‘citizens across the EU would be deeply offended’ and it would ‘undermine the weight of an expression denoting a seminal moment in the history of the European Union.’
The two men that owned the brewery were understandably confused when told they couldn’t have a trademark because a term thrown around their own country with reckless abandon was too offensive. It sure looked for all the world like the EU simply didn’t want to put its stamp of approval on the term “Brexit” due to its own political distaste for it. That sure makes more sense than the odd claim that ‘Brexit’ is going to offend people if given trademark status.
So the brewery appealed… and was denied again. Only this time, the excuse was that the term “Brexit” was not distinctive.
This time the Grand Board ruled the word ‘Brexit’ was not ‘distinctive’ enough rather than being offensive, which it rejected. It ruled in its final judgement: ‘The term “Brexit” denotes a sovereign political decision, taken legally and has no negative moral connotations; it is not a provocation or incitement to crime or disorder.
But how does this make any more sense? As we’ve said, it’s annoying when corporate interests attempt to cash in on pop and political culture with trademark law, but it’s not against trademark law to do so. And a “Brexit Beer” certainly would be distinctive in the alcohol industry. The craft beer industry in particular has made an industry culture out of playfully referencing all sorts of things with their names and labels. I could see all kinds of creative ways for a “Brexit Beer” to be distinctive.
Again, this has the look and feel of the EU making these decisions for political reasons outside the purpose of trademark law. While we don’t spend much effort around here arguing for more trademarks, it’s worth pointing out when government bodies reject those trademarks improperly as well.