Ukrainian Soldier Moves To Trademark ‘Russian Warship, Go Fuck Yourself” Because Of Course

from the licensing-bravery dept

Thanks to Vladimir Putin and his one-man show designed to educate the world on just what can happen when a murderous dictator decides to throw a fit, the news is chock full of Ukraine. This has included Techdirt’s pages, which really shouldn’t be that big of a surprise. Still, I will admit that I didn’t see the possibility of trademark-related stories coming out of the war.

Yet here we are. You may recall the name Roman Gribov. He was one of several soldiers stationed on Snake Island in the Black Sea. When Russian warships began their part of the assualt of their sovereign neighbor, those warships communicated with Gribov, demanding that he and his fellow soldiers surrender. While staring down the barrel of the Russian Navy, Gribov offered up what is now an iconic response: “Russian warship… go fuck yourself!

From there, the rebuttal took on meme status. Other attacks on Russian military assets were punctuated with versions of the phrase. Ukraine’s postal service created a commemorative stamp consisting of a sketch based on the quote. And thorughout the Western world, the phrase began showing up on t-shirts and other items.

Which perhaps partially explains why Gribov, thorugh his family, is attempting to trademark the now iconic verbal middle finger.

WTR has learned that the soldier who uttered the ‘f*ck yourself’ phrase – with permission obtained from his family and the Ukrainian military – is seeking an EU trademark for the term (in both Cyrillic script and English). It was filed yesterday by Taras Kulbaba, founder and lawyer at Bukovnik & Kulbaba, and covers a variety of goods and services from clothing and bags to entertainment and NFTs.

With the safety of the soldier and his family in mind, Kulbaba took a relatively unusual approach when filing for the mark. “When we got in touch with both the military and his family with the idea for a trademark, they all approved but were also concerned that if the application had the family address, it would be dangerous and lead to people making their life hell,” he told WTR. “So after discussing it with both parties, we decided to file the application with the Snake Island address, because it was his place of domicile for quite a long period of time.”

A couple of comments on this. This Ukranian soldier is at the very least a badass and, for me frankly, something of a vulgar hero who perfectly fits my personal sensibilities. And it seems a great many people agree and wanted to spread his iconic message around. And, sure, some of those people are trying to make money off of the phrase.

But is any of this really deserving of trademark protection? You see this sort of thing with athletes sometimes, but at least they tend to have plans to use their marks in actual commerce. In this case, there was no plan to do so until others started making money off these words first.

The ability to defend against opportunistic trademarks is one of the primary reasons for the filing, Kulbaba explains. Another reason, he adds, is to give the soldier and his family the ability to have ownership of the phrase. “We explained in the declaration of good faith to the EUIPO that we believe that either he or his family – depending on what happens in the end –  should have the right to benefit from this. We know that many people are using the phrase commercially without their consent and no-one will be stopping that because it would take a lot of time and money. However, I’m also pretty much sure that there will be many companies who would support an initiative and would agree to pay a licence fee – and perhaps even a few major players may want to do merchandising. That would be a huge help for the family.”

I want to see this soldier and his family get good things coming to them, now more than ever. But the above still isn’t the purpose of trademark law. The idea here isn’t that you say something that goes viral and then you trademark it to turn it into a licensing business. Instead, trademarks are supposed to keep customer confusion at bay when it comes to a source of a good. I find it hard to believe that anyone is out there buying these t-shirts thinking that a Ukrainian soldier previously stationed on Snake Island made them in his off-time.

It’s all just kind of a depressing coda to an otherwise inspiring story. Why in the world does every last thing, including a small but viral aspect of what is otherwise a tragic war being waged on an innocent country, have to be permeated with intellectual property concerns?

Filed Under: , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Ukrainian Soldier Moves To Trademark ‘Russian Warship, Go Fuck Yourself” Because Of Course”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
BernardoVerda (profile) says:

Well, at least this action might provide a little insight on how this particular soldier came to be serving on a quite small and relatively remote, not terribly important island…

I admired the attitude and manner* in which he confronted the threat presented by the Russian warship, but this kind of thing (ie. pursuing a trademark on the incident) strikes me as the kind of behavior that in normal service tends to end up in such soldiers getting relegated to relatively remote postings where their ability to create totally unnecessary headaches is constrained.

(*) that said, I admired the attitude of the subordinate who said “just in case” even more.

Cattress (profile) says:

Slightly off topic, but we love cartoons in my house, and Teen Titans Go is a favorite. They do episodes about mundane grown up topics like buying a rental property, how elite college education is a scam, and recently vs Trademark Troll
I could only find this clip of the episode at the moment. The show is really clever,worth a watch

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...