Mikołaj Lech

patent attorney

A lawyer, who specializes in industrial property law, combating unfair competition and copyright. Thanks to work in Patent Agency he has a contact with the current problems of entrepreneurs.
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23 Jan

JE SUIS CHARLIE filed for protection as a trademark.

„Je suis Charlie” is a slogan which demonstrates solidarity with the murdered graphic authors from weekly magazine „Charlie Hebdo”. It turned out that many people felt that it is a good way to make money. Some people tried to reserve the term „Je suis Charlie” as a trademark. But, does such registration has any chance of success?


Pecunia nono olet (money does not smell).

It is widely known that, for the money people are willing to do anything. There is no significance of respect for the victims, and most ordinary people’s sense of taste.

Colloquially speaking only cash counts.

After the death of an actress Anne Przybylska, like mushrooms after the rain, were created the so-called. Facebook fans farm. Under the pretext of solidarity with the family were collected “liking”. The more liking they have, the more money they can earn from the sale of the fanpage.

A number of pseudo enterprising people also decided to earn money from a Parisian tragedy. It was noted that an application for a registration of the trademark “Je suis Charlie” was made in the Benelux countries, the USA and Australia.

The French patent office reportedly received more than 50 of such requests.


What is the chance for the registration of “Je suis Charlie”?

The small.

In France, has already been made an official statement that the term “Je suis Charlie” shall not be registered. This is because the term does not meet the elementary requirements of a trade mark.

The essential function of the trademark shall be keep in mind. It is the:

distinguishing the goods or services of one undertaking from those of other undertakings.

By registering a trademark, it is not obtained a full monopoly on the name. Exclusive use of the term is restricted to indicated goods or services. Applicants who tried to file the controversial signs indicated the following goods: soap, perfume, bags, backpacks, clothing and paper articles.

In this case the type of product seems to have no meaning.

„Je suis Charlie” is so popular slogan, that it would be difficult to imagine it as an indication of a product.


The uniqueness of this case led to issuing of a comment by OHIM.

We can read that:

OHIM usually does not comment on individual trademark applications. However, in case of the term „Je suis Charlie”, the Office sees an overriding public interest to issue a comment. It shows that the mark, may be regarded as “contrary to public policy or morality”. It also can be devoid of distinctive character.


Is the slogan „Je suis Charlie” protected by a copyright?

In one of the articles in Newsweek I just read that:

“Joachim Roncin on the basis of copyright will try to control the distribution (of the slogan) and keep its message”.


Personally, I can barely see this.

Single words or simple combination of words generally will not be considered as composition in the light of copyright law. They do not have distinctive character.

And although the whole world associate the slogan „Je suis Charlie” with a particular event, so in reality there’s no fantasy.

The problem (and also the advantage) of various kinds of slogans is their brevity. The simplicity of this slogan allows to easily influence on the recipient. At the same time it sometimes deprives him of fanciful character (see “Sugar fortifies”).

It was considered for example in the dispute over the copyright to the slogan “heart like a bell”. Generally people in everyday speech, before that advertising, a healthy heart described by the term “the heart like a bell”.

All the more, the slogan „Je suis Charlie” (i.e. „I am Charlie”) has no originality, and has been used by people for a long time. Of course, this does not change the fact that today it raises such and not other associations.

Mikołaj Lech

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