The INPI, in a press release dated November 20, 2015, "took the decision not to register [the] trademark applications [PRAY FOR PARIS, JE SUIS PARIS] or their variants because they appear to be contrary to public policy. Indeed, these marks are composed of terms which cannot be understood by an economic actor because of their use and their perception by the community in the light of the events of Friday 13 November 2015. »
This press release, which follows the attacks of November 13, 2015, is the logical consequence of the decision taken by the INPI in January of the same year not to register the trademark "JE SUIS CHARLIE" or one of its variants in favor of unscrupulous applicants seeking to appropriate these new slogans in order to derive any market value from them.
These decisions are to be welcomed from both a moral and a legal point of view. It should be noted, however, that the legal arguments raised by INPI are different in the two cases.
- For JE SUIS CHARLIE, the INPI had invoked as a main ground the lack of distinctiveness. It had considered that JE SUIS CHARLIE was a slogan devoid of distinctiveness, whatever the goods or services concerned, from the moment it was widely appropriated by the public. In fact, the global use which has been made of that slogan in France but also throughout the world, on a multitude of media (internet, T-shirts, signs, newspapers, television, etc.) prevents it from being classified as a trade mark, since the latter must guarantee to the consumer the origin of the goods and distinguish them from those of competitors. This is impossible for JE SUIS CHARLIE, as its use has rapidly spread around the world.
- With regard to PRAY FOR PARIS and JE SUIS PARIS, the INPI has opted instead for a more radical argument, which is also more flexible to implement, that of disturbing public order. It took the view that these slogans could not be the subject of mercantile use, given the events to which they are linked: the general public perceives them not as trademarks, i.e. signs used to identify a company's products and services, but as cries of social rallying against terrorism and for peace. No one can therefore claim exclusive use of them.