Attempt to Register ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘I Can’t Breathe’ as trade marks should fail

Written by Margaret Briffa | June 10, 2020

Trade Marks

It was inevitable really. In the midst of a tragedy and subsequent worldwide public outcry for an end to prejudice, inequality and injustice, someone has sought to benefit commercially from the situation. Stand up Mr Georgious Demitriou who through his company Licensed to Thrill has applied to register the trade marks: Black Lives Matter and I Can’t Breathe. Filed on 6 June, the Black Lives Matter application seeks to secure rights in the mark for clothing and the I Can’t Breathe application for jewellery, wrist band, clothing and charity events. 

The United States Patent and Trade Mark office rejected an application for ‘I Can’t Breathe’ filed in 2015 following the protests after the death of Eric Gardner in New York who died after being restrained and killed in a similar way to George Floyd. 

Hopefully the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) will reject these applications. Certainly they would a have legitimate reason to do so. Both applications are for non-distinctive terms which describe a social movement and should be free for all to use. They are not perceived by the public as signifying a brand and hopefully the UKIPO will not grant monopoly rights in the use of the terms. 

If they do slip through, good luck to Mr Demitriou should he try to enforce the trade marks against anyone using them. He may well face an action for invalidity on the basis that the marks should not have been granted in the first place to say nothing of the negative publicity he is bringing on himself. 

Let’s be vocal about those who seek to abuse the trade mark system and help stamp out this sort of behaviour.

Written by Margaret Briffa, Solicitor

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