Je Suis Charlie

  Sometimes I feel a bit ashamed to tell people that I’m a trademark Attorney when these kind of thing happen. Also in the Benelux a trademark was filed on the 8th of January, only one day after the attack in Paris. The mark was filed for the class headings in classes 03, 16, 25, 28, 32, 35 and 38. Trademarks are usually refused because they are descriptive/ or lack of distinctive character.  

In some rare cases a trademark is refused because it is deemed offensive to a part of the public. Unfortunately we do not legal ground to reject trademark applications in case they are insulting or offensive for other people, or if the trademark combines important religious or cultural symbols. In practice the Benelux trademark office nearly always accepts trademarks. Therefore, I was afraid that also this application would be accepted. Positive, I saw this morning that the application was withdrawn by the applicant after all the (negative) press publications in Belgium and the Netherlands.

Usual these kind of applications are accepted by the Examiner. In the past only a very few applications have been refused on this ground (deemed to be offensive to a part of the public) the last 10 years (e.g. the mark JODEN (Dutch for Jews) for shower heads. If there is a ‘problematic’ application, the Benelux Office usual refuse the mark as being not distinctive (e.g. the mark ALLAH for clothing). (Which is better than to accept them, but the legal ground is in my opinion not correct. ) Therefore, I still have the hope (although I know it’s a bit unrealistic) that some day we will have a legal ground in the Benelux to refuse this kind of filing, a legal ground that marks belonging to the public area (including cultural or religious symbols) cannot be claimed as a trademark.


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MENTOS has been selling chewing gum under the name MENTOS PURE FRESH for several years. In order to protect her rights MENTOS has registered the following trademarks: the logo MENTOS PURE FRESH, the logo MENTOS PURE FRESH 3 and a figurative depiction of the word PURE. Defendant sells chewing gum under the trademark DENTYNE PURE and has registered its logo as a trademark. Infringement or not?
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