Dublin, Ireland-based Sherwin O’Riordan (SOR) Solicitors has provided us with this beautiful and insanely informational infographic on the current state of European patent registration. Taken from the most recent European Patent Office statistics (2013 Annual Report and 2014 Facts and Figures), the infographic highlights some interesting trends in European patent prosecution including:
-Patent Application Filings on the Rise: In 2013, there were 265,690 European patents filed, the largest number of annual filings to date, and representing a 2.8% increase over 2012.
-Foreign (and Corporate) Registrants Were the Largest and Often Most Successful Registrants: On average, one in four patents were granted registration in 2013. Interestingly, those countries that were the most successful in getting a European patent registered were mostly from outside Europe as the U.S., Germany and Japan had the three most successful registration rates per country. Large enterprises made up almost two-thirds of patent applicants in 2013. South Korea-based Samsung was the single largest patent filer in Europe with 2,833 applications in 2013 alone, followed by Siemens with 1,974 applications.
-Medical Patents Led Registration, Tech and Transport Patents Grew The Fastest: The Medical industry had the largest amount of European patents per technical field in 2013, however computer technology and transport were the fastest growing during the same.
-The Swiss Led the Way Among Europeans: Switzerland appeared to be Europe’s most inventive country in 2013, leading all other European countries in European patent applications per million inhabitants.
-Revocation After Registration is Common: In 2013, almost one in three European patents were revoked after being granted registration.
Special thanks to James Sherwin and everyone at SOR Solicitors for sharing this infographic with The IP Exporter!
In recent months, there have been a number of stories from around the world about trademark applications, registrations and uses that have been critically questioned, and in some cases rejected, based on their offensive cultural or historical meaning.
Here are just a few stories that I have come across in the past couple of months. They highlight important country-specific cultural and historical sensitivities businesses should take into consideration when deciding how to brand, and register their trademarks abroad.
- The U.S. football team the Washington Redskins have been under growing pressure from Native American organizations, media and sport commentators, and even comments from President Obama, that their team name be changed, and their trademark registrations in that name cancelled, based on the team name’s insensitive characterization of Native Americans (FYI, The National Congress of American Indians came up with some model logos that give a unique and appropriate juxtaposition to show the degrading nature of Native American sport team names).
- Closer to my home, the Portland, Oregon-based Asian-American rock band THE SLANTS were refused trademark registration of their band name by the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board based on the name being a “derogatory reference to people of Asian descent.”
Similar trends are also happening around the world.
- Last week, the IP blog The IPKat had a great posting about how an Italian citizen living in Norway and an Italian regional wine industry association helped to put enough pressure on a Swedish wine producer selling under the mark MAFIOZO to stop using the mark. Beyond the winemaker’s alleged violation of European Union geographical indication protections, the producer was publicly criticized for using a mark that connotes historical and ongoing Italian organized crime that has resulted in thousands of deaths.
- Lastly, late last month, family members of the deceased Colombian drug lord Pablo Emilio Escobar Gavira submitted a trademark application to Colombia’s Commission of Industry and Commerce to register the full name of the former drug lord in International Class 41. The Commission rejected the application stating that granting the mark would be “immoral and subvert public order.” Although it was only one single trademark application, many world news outlets reported the story, even comparing the attempt to register Mr. Escobar’s name as registering Hitler as a trademark (Coincidently, I recently wrote about how a Thai fast food restaurant tried (and failed) to use such branding).
What’s the Takeaway? All of these recent stories highlight how a country’s historical and cultural sensitivities can not only prevent obtaining legal protections for a trademark, but can also cause additional unforeseen damage through negative public relations and rebranding costs. As a trademark provides a means for the public to identify a business’ goods and services, choosing a word, name or phrase that that is culturally or historically insensitive can almost guarantee negative outcomes, both at home and abroad.
In the context of developing foreign markets for goods and services, understanding and respecting the cultural and historical sensitivities of a particular country is essential to obtaining trademark protection in that country, and more importantly, helping to develop a successful international brand. As with all other aspects of entering into new foreign markets, businesses should do their homework and ensure the mark or marks they wish to register and use abroad are not offensive. Doing so is a relatively inexpensive insurance policy for businesses to prevent complications in expanding abroad.
What does your business do to protect itself from insensitive branding abroad?