Can all words and combinations of words constitute the names of a trademark and a legal person?

Authors: Mykolas Jakutis, an Assistant to Attorney-at-Law in METIDA, Reda Zaboliene, Managing Partner, Attorney-at-Law, Patent Attorney in METIDA

wordsThe names of trademarks and legal persons are separate and independent objects of industrial property which perform different functions. The function of a trademark is to identify the goods and (or) services produced or provided by different business entity. The name of a legal person is supposed to identify different legal persons. However, not all the names of trademarks and legal persons can be registered.

On 1st May 2013 the amendments of the regulations of the Register of the  Legal Entities confirmed by the government came into force by which the register’s manager is responsible to examine whether the newly registered names of legal persons meet the standard norms of Lithuanian language. Previously, the requirements that the name of the legal person has to be created complying with the standard norms of Lithuanian language were also valid, however, until now, when registering a legal person, the Register of the Legal Entities only checked whether a name filed for the registration is not identical to the Community or registered in Lithuania trademarks, whereas the correctness of the name was not examined. From now on, in instances when the register’s manager receives an application requesting to temporarily include a name in the Register of the Legal Entities, to change legal person’s name or to register a legal person that is being established, he or she will have to refer to the Commission of Lithuanian Language for the consultation regarding the compliance of legal person’s name with the standard norms of Lithuanian language. If the Commission of Lithuanian Language informs register’s manager that the name does not comply with the standard norms of Lithuanian, the register’s manager will make a decision prohibiting to register the name. However, exceptions are also anticipated: e.g. if the name consists of a trademark which is registered in the Register of the Trademarks the previously mentioned limitations do not apply to it.

In 2011 The State Patent Bureau received an application to register ‘KALBAJOBAI’ trademark. The State Patent Bureau’s expert decided not to register this trademark. The State Patent Bureau’s expert referred to the Commission of Lithuanian Language with a query about this word’s interpretation and the response received stated that this word is a swearword, its use in a public space is indecent and offensive to the public breaching the public policy, therefore, it was stated that this mark contains a swearword and is non-registrable.

Within the same year it was attempted to try to register a trademark ‘LITOFCAI’, however, The State Patent Bureau’s expert decided not to register this mark either. The expert referred to the Commission of Lithuanian Language with a query again and it stated that this word is slang. The public use of this slang does not comply with the public policy and the norms of the public behavior whose compliance ensures a normal course of life, a tolerant behavior, civilized conflicts’ resolutions arising among people and so on. Taking all of this into account it was stated that the trademark is a part of public speech, thus the mark ‘LITOFCAI’ and its use in public spaces does not comply with the public policy and good morals. Therefore this mark consisting of slang is non-registrable.

As it can be seen from these examples, the permission of the Commission of Lithuanian Language is not necessary for trademarks’ registration, however, in case of a complicated and unclear situation the experts of the State Patent Bureau refer to the Commission with queries about various trademark names. It is also obvious that currently it is easier to register a trademark than a legal person’s name, because such limitations do not apply to the trademarks.

In this situation the consumers who want to register the name of a legal person will try to register the name as a trademark and then apply law’s exception to register a legal person under the same name, if the Commission of Lithuanian Language does not permit to register such name.

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