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Friday, 2 January 2004


Welsh tobacconist Peter Lloyd and former online travel magnate Martin Ferguson Jones are planning to take on the major players in the tobacco industry with a youth cigarette called Shag. The brand, aimed mainly at university students, is the first major independent cigarette brand in the UK since the controversial Death cigarettes were launched by the late lamented Enlightened Tobacco Company in 1991. Death, which featured a skull and crossbones on the packet, quickly became a cult brand before it was stubbed out by the taxman. The Shag Tobacco Company hopes its brand will have the same appeal. The packaging has been designed in black and white so the health warning doesn't look so odd on it. The organisation has also designed a Shag clothing line but cannot sell it in the UK because another firm owns the name for clothing. The company, which has signed a deal with P&O ferries, complains it is difficult to persuade some shops to stock the brand because of the "oligopoly" in the UK of the three leading tobacco manufacturers. Said Ferguson Jones, the company's chairman: "It does make it very difficult for a new brand to enter the market. Obviously, the advertising ban and many other restrictions the Government has introduced play right into the hands of the current brand owners." Shag hopes to get round this via point-of-sale advertising, which is still permitted, and by giving out Shag-branded condoms.

The IPKat says, whichever way you take the chosen name, the future's bleak for it in trade mark terms. On one meaning of the double entendre, it describes "shredded coarse tobacco", which will be either descriptive of the contents of the cigarettes or deceptive. On the other meaning, it may fail either under the morality clause (being a slang term referring to intercourse) or because it's potentially descriptive of the intended purpose of the cigarettes. Granted, it's not clear if they are meant to be used before, during or after sex, but as the ECJ's recent Doublemint judgment decided, multiple possible descriptive meanings do not prevent a mark from being descriptive and therefore unregistrable.

Shag the dance , the carpet and the common cormorant
Bad trade marks here; stupid trade marks here

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