The IPKat brings tidings of a public morality trade mark decision, concerning the use of swear words (or rather their near equivalents) on T-shirts. Kevin Scrange applied to register FOOK as a UK trade mark for clothing, footwear and headgear in Class 25. Objection was taken to the application under Section 3(3)(a) of the Trade Marks Act 1994, on grounds that the mark was contrary to the accepted principles of morality because it was phonetically very similar (and identical in some dialects) to the swear word FUCK and therefore sent out the message of an offensive word.
Ultimately, the mark was refused registration as it was considered contrary to public policy or morality:
♦ Mr Scrange intended to use the mark on T-shirts. T-shirts are often used for carrying messages and other trade mark matter and, when used as on the front of a T-shirt, the word FOOK could be seen as a simple message or statement. In parts of the UK, aural use of the word FOOK would be interpreted as aural use of the word FUCK and when encountered visually, FOOK would be seen as a visual rendition of the aural pronunciation of the word FUCK. As the word FUCK is a taboo word, in regions of the UK where FOOK was seen as the aural or visual equivalent of the word FUCK, the word FOOK would also be seen as a taboo word.
♦ Decisions of the UK Trade Mark Office and OHIM to register the trade mark FCUK were not relevant. The state of the register does not tell you what is happening in the market and one cannot tell what the circumstances are that cause the Registrar to allow the mark to be put on the register. Likewise, the acceptance for registration of FOOK as part of a limited company name under the Companies Act 1995 was irrelevant.
♦ While it may have been the case that FOOK was a Chinese surname and Chinese word meaning “Blessing”, it would not be interpreted as such by the relevant consumer of the goods in question.
♦ The relevant consumer of the goods would not interpret FOOK as an acronym for “Friends only OK”.
♦ Contrary to Scranage’s claim that FUCK is the public domain as an accepted word that no longer causes offence to the average member of the public, FUCK is a taboo word, a swear word that still causes grave offence to a significant proportion of the general public.
♦ Although some members of the general public would not be offended by the use of the word FOOK as a trade mark and some would find the mark merely distasteful, the use of the word FOOK as a trade mark in the manner proposed by Scrange and in relation to the goods applied for would cause greater offence than mere distaste to a significant section of the general public. Therefore, the mark applied for was contrary to public policy or accepted principles of morality and was barred from registration by s.3(3)(a) of the 1994 Act.
The IPKat thinks that this is a sensible decision. If the word “fuck” isn’t considered to be offensive then what is?
Fook really is a Chinese surname – click here
Fook trade marks here, here and here
Eliminate naughty words here
Monday, 17 May 2004
Posted by Unknown at 22:46:00