The latest trademark news from Monte Carlo

Monte Carlo was the glamorous venue for the recent Marques Trademark Conference. There were plenty of big issues discussed, but like any big conference, they often saved the best till last.

So let’s start with the end.

Some of the key topics were:

Brand-jacking.

This concerns the illegal use of trademarks online. Greenpeace found themselves in hot water recently after they set up a hoax Shell website to raise awareness of the oil company’s controversial plans to drill in the Arctic.

While this was clearly a very aggressive example of brand-jacking, the point was this: everyone goes to great lengths to register a trademark and a brand identity, so never leverage anybody else’s name for good reasons or bad.

A rise in trademark infringements online

SCA, a Swedish global hygiene and forest products company, then took to the stage to get us all trembling in our boots. Apparently IP protection and general business security are one of SCA’s priorities in 2014, as innovative business faces all sorts of threats via the internet.

They argued for the need of trusted, individual domains. They had clear motives for obtaining a .SCA domain: for better brand communication, improved security and to prevent cybersquatting.

Trademark rights v freedom of expression.

It’s a growing issue in the world of trademark law.

Put simply, do the rights holders hold all the power or do we actually still have free speech? Again, Greenpeace were at the centre of attention after their parody of Esso’s trademark (replacing the two ‘s’s with dollar signs) earned them a court appearance.

Trademark owners are continually getting challenged these days, with many cases grabbing the headlines. I think the conclusion was that many trademark owners may have to start relaxing a bit, because any aggressive reaction may create a more adverse reaction than no response at all.

 

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