January 2018. German film-maker Constantin Film Produktion has been refused EU trademark protection for its film title Fack Ju Göhte following a European Court ruling of 24 January 2018. The Court concluded that the phrase was offensive and therefore rightly rejected the application (we feel).
Clothing and watches
Constantin had applied to register Fack Ju Göhte, the title of a German comedy, for a large number of products ranging from clothing to games and food to watches. The application was initially turned down in 2016 by the Board of Appeal (BOA) of the European Trademark Office EUIPO.
Offensive and posthumously insulting
The BOA concluded that ‘Fack Ju’ sounded very similar to ‘Fuck You’, which is offensive, especially since – in view of the products being envisaged – it could also be directed at children. And the word ‘Göhte’ is obviously reminiscent of the 18th century poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The Board of Appeal felt it wasn’t appropriate to posthumously insult a great writer.
In its appeal to the European Court, Constantin argued that the combination of ‘Fack’ and ‘Ju’ was designed mainly to be light-hearted and ‘playful’ and was the kind of language modern teenagers were used to. The Court disagreed and upheld the BOA decision. Outcome: the phrase won’t be added to the trademark register.
Combination is the problem
Clearly, the inclusion of the word ‘Fuck’ in a trademark wouldn’t in itself justify a refusal. For example, we found Fuck Winter, Fucking Hell and Starfucker registered as European trademarks. What chafes in this case is that the word was combined with the name of the illustrious writer Goethe. There’s the rub.
Examples of European registrations