Soviet Symbol Can’t be Trade-marked

September 22nd, 2011

According to a press release from the General Court of the European Union dated September 20, 2011, the former Soviet Coat of Arms can not be trade-marked in the European Union.

Coat of Arms

The Coat of Arms and other former Soviet symbols are a symbol of despotism and morally offensive, according to certain legislation in Hungary.  The General Court of the EU upheld a decision of the Community Trade Mark Office (OHIM) to refuse registration due to a regulation that prohibits registration of a mark if certain legislation would prohibit it (in this case the Hungarian laws clearly would not tolerate its use).  A full version of the press release is available here.

The Canadian Trade-marks Act contains a similar provision in section 9(1)(j), which essentially states that no one may adopt a trade-mark which is “scandalous, obscene, or immoral”.  Notwithstanding Canadian legislation against registration of coats of arms, flags, or emblems, the likelihood of the Canadian courts quashing an application for the Soviet coat of arms on the grounds of it being “immoral” is slim.  The former Soviet symbol is likely not considered as offensive as it is in Hungary due to Hungary’s history.

I wasn’t able to find case law citing section 9(1)(j) of the Act for examples of obscene applications.  Likely applicants have either thought twice (or get good advice from their lawyer) before attempting such registrations.

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