By Ritvik M. Kulkarni, 24th January 2015
The French TMO Rejects 50 Applications for Registration of the slogan “JE SUIS CHARLIE”
No sooner had the slogan “JE SUIS CHARLIE” hit the streets in the memory of the Charlie Hebdo victims, than the trademark applications for the slogans had hit the INPI (the French Trademark Office).
With as many as 120 applicants rushing to get the popular slogan registered in their name, the INPI is pressurized to determine the ownership of the trademark; if at all it is worthy of trademark protection. Among these applicants a graphic designer named Joachim Roncin most ferociously claimed to be the creator and author of this slogan.
While rejecting around 50 applications for lack of distinctiveness, the INPI eventually decided that the slogan “JE SUIS CHARLIE” was not capable of any trademark protection at all. The French TM Body released an official statement on 13th January 2015 saying, (Translated from French) “the phrase, “JE SUIS CHARLIE”, does not qualify for trademark protection since the phrase is “too general” and not associated with (or identify) a specific origin (originator, owner) of goods or services”.
While the chances for TM registration are bleak for the remaining applicants as well, Mr. Roncin still has a clear shot at copyright protection, provided he proves his authorship in the slogan and its appearance. Since mere words or letters are generally not afforded copyright protection, Mr. Roncin may have to apply for a copyright in the artistic work.