On the day before Christmas last year, an application was filed for the Union trade mark 018171380 for classes 35, 36, 41 and 42. The services covered range from marketing and sales promotion, financial and cultural activities to the provision of scientific information in the field of climate change and global warming. A trademark application like the one filed 1000 times a year? Not quite, because the trade mark is „FRIDAYS FOR FUTURE“ and the applicant is the Greta Thunberg Foundation based in Stockholm.
Is it all about money?
„We knew it right away“, Greta’s critics are about to triumph. „The young lady only wants to make money with her movement.“ Indeed the association chain „brand – market – marketing“ may end exactly at this point. But don’t make things too easy. On the one hand, there would be hardly any objections to generate money by using the name, given that the revenues are returned to the foundation. And also to prevent third parties from misusing the name for their own purposes is certainly a plausible step. The trademark application is also not „dishonest“; it should be remembered that the convent of Mother Theresa has had the typical white and blue habit of the nuns protected in order to stop the flourishing trade in it. In any case, the 17-year-old lady posted on Instagram that she could not allow her name and her foundation to be used for purposes other than her non-profit organization behind it. It remains open whether the accumulation of possessive pronouns results from a trademark law strategy aimed at strengthening distinctiveness, as David Ziegelmayer suspects in „Legal Tribune Online“.
Not a self-runner
For the trademark lawyer, the question is much more interesting, what are the prospects that the trademark will be registered at all. Since the beginning of 2019, the DPMA alone has recorded eleven applications for trade mark protection, of which only one has been registered to date: a word/figurative mark representing an environmental certificate with the subtitle „Fridays for Future“. The German Trademark Office seems to be a popular battleground here: the counter-movement „FRIDAYS FOR HUBRAUM“ has filed 14 applications in the same period, but, to be fair, none of them has yet been registered.
Slogans have a hard time
The sign ‚FRIDAYS FOR FUTURE‘ is a word mark, more precisely a slogan. Although they are subject to the same requirements as regards distinctiveness, experience has shown that it is more difficult to register them: unless a descriptive character is contested, registration will normally fail because a word chain is typically not understood as an indication of origin. Most slogans which are finally registered therefore only skip the hurdle of lack of distinctiveness with the help of market penetration.
The professional community therefore agrees that the application will not become a self-runner. It may fail simply because the slogan will be understood as a term for a movement and not as a business activity. It will be interesting to see how EUIPO sees the situation. After all, they have taken a certain risk just by publishing the application. However, it will become exciting when opposition proceedings are initiated, which certainly does not have to be waited for very long.
Statement of use becomes a challenge
The statement repeated by Greta Thunberg like a mantra that one does not want to earn money with the trademark does not stand in the way of either registration or proof of use due after 5 years. Use on a commercial scale does not require the pursuit of profit. Much more problematic could be the question whether the sign is actually used for all classes and services applied for. A too inaccurate drafting of the list has already been the downfall of other well-known trademarks, such as „BIG MAC“ for catering services. It is possible that Telekom’s color mark Magenta for financial services will soon be in the same situation.
It is to be hoped that Greta will not have to say again at the end of the registration procedure:
„How dare you?“