Obscene trademarks – law and advertising

Everybody knows that the Benelux trademark authorities are very liberal as it comes to accepting trademarks. By law, they can refuse trademarks that are contrary to the public order or immoral, but this almost never happens. This seems convenient, but remember that these trademarks may be refused abroad. In Switzerland trademarks are easily refused on religious grounds and the EUIPO refuses trademarks containing the word F*CK. However problems can arise in the Netherlands as well, due to stricter rules regarding advertising.

Stiva filed a complaint against the commercial of Neuken (to f*ck) Likeur. The campaign contained texts like, “life is a matter of taking or being taken”, which in Dutch can be read as “life is a matter of f*cking or being f*cked”, or “when do you like Neuken (to f*ck) the most, before or after the act (accompanied by a picture of a lady in bed)?” The Advertising Code of Conduct Commission has confirmed that this campaign is contrary to good taste, because of the combination of the obscene name “Neuken” and obvious hints to sex. The advertiser is therefore recommended to stop using this campaign.


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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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