HideTechdirt is off for the long weekend! In the mean time, check out our new face masks and other gear on Threadless »
HideTechdirt is off for the long weekend! In the mean time, check out our new face masks and other gear on Threadless »

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.

Filed Under: beer, brexit, eu ipo, ipo, trademark

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. icon
    Wendy Cockcroft (profile), 22 May 2019 @ 5:22am


    Yeah, that's the story that's been trickling down through the right wing press for decades.

    There are indeed federalists in the EU, I know several people who also advocate for federalism. At one point some Europeans (mostly Germans) were convinced that one day we'd all merge into a superstate.

    Funny story... we've always had skeptics and separatists. We have several movements here in the UK including Scotland, Wales, Cumbria, and Cornwall. Yes indeed, some of our counties would gladly cut the rest of the country off and let it float away.

    In Italy there's the Padania movement and in Spain the Basques and Catalans want to secede. I'm sure there are parts of Germany, Poland, and France where people feel the same way.

    While it's no secret that the EEC (as it was) was predicated on the idea of eventual federalism the UK has opt-outs from that as it wanted the best of both worlds. The EU can pass whatever directives it likes but ultimately they have to be ratified in Parliament and are not legally binding until they have been. The Daily Mail's mad stories of straight bananas, etc., are mostly made up. We still use the Imperial system over here: I can buy my fruit and veg in pounds and ounces if I want to.

    While the decision to ban this trademark may well the result of some petty bureaucrats going on a power trip the mark only won't apply in the EU, the manufacturers can still get one over here in the UK. Well now it's gone global and the EU has been made to look stupid. Expect a walk-back in the next day or so.

    Great quote, BTW.

    Incidentally, my main source for EU law stuff, David Allen Green, who writes for the Financial Times, has stated that we could absolutely leave the EU on favourable terms and get along just fine... if we did it slowly, carefully unpicking the mesh of trade agreements and treaties that bind us to the EU. I'd be fine with that. It's the "Kick the country off a cliff and hope for the best" approach I have the problem with.

Add Your Comment

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

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer

Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.