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On Friday, OHIM — the body responsible for the processing of Community trade mark applications — issued a statement with regard to the filing of speculative trade mark applications for the slogan “Je suis Charlie”.

As a general rule, OHIM’s policy is not to comment on any individual cases of trade mark or design applications either before examination or at any stage of the application and registration cycle. However, the IP issues surrounding the registration of the “Je suis Charlie” mark could be considered to be of overriding public interest.

Therefore, according to OHIM’s Guidelines for Examination on Community Trade Marks (Part B, Section 4), an application which consisted of or which contained the phrase “Je suis Charlie” would probably be subject to an objection under Article 7 (1) (f) of the Community Trade Mark Regulation, due to the fact that the registration of such a trade mark could be considered “contrary to public policy or to accepted principles of morality” and also on the basis of Article 7(1)(b) as being devoid of distinctive character.

This is the right decision and means that applicants with their minds set on benefitting from the public’s current sense of unity need to beware – whilst there is no outright prohibition on applications made to register JE SUIS CHARLIE, either by itself or in combination with figurative features, objections are likely to be raised on the grounds of Articles 7(1)(b) or 7(1)(f). The fact that such objections will probably be raised is a warning to applicants that they must consider these absolute bars to registration very carefully if they seriously intend to sustain their applications.