Court of Justice of the European Union Press Release: “The Advocate General observes that freedom of expression clearly applies in the field of trade marks, even though its protection is not the primary goal of trade marks, the aim of which is essentially to guarantee to consumers the origin of the goods or services. The Advocate General notes that EUIPO has a role to play in the protection of public policy and accepted principles of morality, even though this is not its primary role.
As regards the concepts of ‘public policy’ and ‘accepted principles of morality’ to which the Regulation refers, while acknowledging a certain overlap, the Advocate General distinguishes between them and suggests that different elements have to be taken into account for their assessment. When EUIPO wishes to rely, specifically, on the absolute ground for refusal of accepted principles of morality, which was the case in the present proceedings, it must establish why it believes that a given sign would offend those principles. Importantly, that assessment must be grounded in a specific social context, and it cannot ignore factual evidence that either confirms or possibly casts doubt on EUIPO’s own views on what does or does not conform to accepted principles of morality within a given society at a given time. In other words, that assessment cannot be carried out having regard solely to the word sign, in isolation from the broader societal perception and context.
As regards the present case, the Advocate General concluded that the EUIPO assessment, endorsed by the General Court, failed to meet those standards. In this respect, the Advocate General discusses the evaluation conducted by EUIPO and by the General Court of certain factors put forward by Constantin Film, such as the success of the film ‘Fack Ju Göhte’; the absence of controversy as to its title; the fact that the film title was duly authorized and released for screening to younger audiences; and that it has been incorporated into the learning programme of the Goethe-Institut. While none of those factors is conclusive for the assessment under the Regulation, they constitute strong evidence about the social perception of morality by the relevant public. Thus, much more convincing arguments should have been provided by EUIPO and the General Court to conclude that the eponymous trade mark still cannot be registered on account of it being an affront to accepted principles of morality caused to exactly the same public.
Lastly, the Advocate General argues that the General Court erred in not sanctioning the failure, on the part of EUIPO, to appropriately explain the departure from its past decisionmaking practice, or to state a plausible reason why the application for the sign ‘Fack Ju Göhte’ had to be decided differently compared to the outcome reached in a similar case, which was brought to the attention of EUIPO by Constantin Film to support their application ”
Red the entire press release here.
Read the full opinion here.