PAKI sent packing as General Court gets it right

A Kat remembers ... "Paki-bashing" was a term that entered the English language during
his teems, along with "aggro" and "skinhead". Note the Doc Martens, often termed "bovver boots"
This Kat was going to let this story hang around till Friday, in the hope that an English translation of the General Court's decision might have made itself available in the meantime. However, today's decision in Case T-526/09 PAKI Logistics GmbH v OHIM; soutenu par Royaume-Uni de Grande-Bretagne et d’Irlande du Nord -- available only in French and German so far -- has drummed up a lot of activity in the general vicinity of the Kat's email in-box, spearheaded by the articulate and erudite Simon Malynicz (3 New Square) who appeared for the Royaume-Uni [Merpel explains: the United Kingdom has been rebranded 'Royaume-Uni' in a desperate attempt to advance in the alphabetical list of EU Member States. An Earlier attempt to rebrand the UK as Albion was opposed by the French, who described the move as 'perfidious'].

So what happened in this case? According to the very handy, and indeed swiftly-posted, note on the MARQUES Class 46 blog by the lovely, learned and and indeed alliterative Laetitia Lagarde, the General Court upheld the OHIM Board of Appeal's refusal to register the word mark PAKI for various goods and services in Classes 6, 20, 37 and 39. The refusal was on absolute grounds, since use of the mark would be “contrary to public policy or to accepted principles of morality” under Article 7(1)9f) of the Community Trade Mark Regulation.  Since many of the IPKat's readers have mastered English as a second, third or even fourth language, it should be explained that -- for the indigenous English-speaking public of Albion -- the term ‘paki’ is perceived as a racist word, a derogatory and insulting appellation for Pakistani people or, more widely, for any dark-skinned immigrant from the Indian subcontinent.

The General Court affirmed that the protection against any discrimination is a fundamental value of the European Union, as provided in Articles 2 and 3, paragraph 3 of the EU Treaty, by Articles 9 and 10 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, and by Article.21 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. That was fine, of course, but was it enough to sink the trade mark application?

The applicant, unimpressed by all this airy-fairy stuff, submitted evidence which sought to refute the perception of this term as being purely insulting, seeking to prove that the term was used by the Pakistani community itself to refer to food and various products originating from South Asia. However, OHIM, supported by the UK government, was able to demonstrate that there was still ample evidence to the contrary (one example of this being an article on "Paki bashing" article submitted by OHIM).

This member of the IPKat team is hugely relieved at this result, has several beneficial results. In particular
  • it shows that the submissions of the governments of EU Member States are indeed taken into account by the Court of Justice (which in turn means that it's worth responding to all and any calls by the government for responses to its frequent requests for guidance);
  • it provides a happy precedent for other minority groups (to which this Kat belongs (eg orthodox Jew, IP blogger, fictional cat) who might wish to see their feelings spared with regard to abusive terms;
  • it gives this Kat a rare opportunity to express his pleasure at the outcome of a case before the General Court even though the decision hasn't been issued in the national language of the country in which the applied-for mark was offensive.

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