For the half-year to 31 December 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Rebecca Gulbul, Lucas Michels and Marie-Andrée Weiss.

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Wednesday, 5 October 2011

PAKI sent packing as General Court gets it right

A Kat remembers ... "Paki-bashing" was a term that entered the English language during
his teems, along with "aggro" and "skinhead". Note the Doc Martens, often termed "bovver boots"
This Kat was going to let this story hang around till Friday, in the hope that an English translation of the General Court's decision might have made itself available in the meantime. However, today's decision in Case T-526/09 PAKI Logistics GmbH v OHIM; soutenu par Royaume-Uni de Grande-Bretagne et d’Irlande du Nord -- available only in French and German so far -- has drummed up a lot of activity in the general vicinity of the Kat's email in-box, spearheaded by the articulate and erudite Simon Malynicz (3 New Square) who appeared for the Royaume-Uni [Merpel explains: the United Kingdom has been rebranded 'Royaume-Uni' in a desperate attempt to advance in the alphabetical list of EU Member States. An Earlier attempt to rebrand the UK as Albion was opposed by the French, who described the move as 'perfidious'].

So what happened in this case? According to the very handy, and indeed swiftly-posted, note on the MARQUES Class 46 blog by the lovely, learned and and indeed alliterative Laetitia Lagarde, the General Court upheld the OHIM Board of Appeal's refusal to register the word mark PAKI for various goods and services in Classes 6, 20, 37 and 39. The refusal was on absolute grounds, since use of the mark would be “contrary to public policy or to accepted principles of morality” under Article 7(1)9f) of the Community Trade Mark Regulation.  Since many of the IPKat's readers have mastered English as a second, third or even fourth language, it should be explained that -- for the indigenous English-speaking public of Albion -- the term ‘paki’ is perceived as a racist word, a derogatory and insulting appellation for Pakistani people or, more widely, for any dark-skinned immigrant from the Indian subcontinent.

The General Court affirmed that the protection against any discrimination is a fundamental value of the European Union, as provided in Articles 2 and 3, paragraph 3 of the EU Treaty, by Articles 9 and 10 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, and by Article.21 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. That was fine, of course, but was it enough to sink the trade mark application?

The applicant, unimpressed by all this airy-fairy stuff, submitted evidence which sought to refute the perception of this term as being purely insulting, seeking to prove that the term was used by the Pakistani community itself to refer to food and various products originating from South Asia. However, OHIM, supported by the UK government, was able to demonstrate that there was still ample evidence to the contrary (one example of this being an article on "Paki bashing" article submitted by OHIM).

This member of the IPKat team is hugely relieved at this result, has several beneficial results. In particular
  • it shows that the submissions of the governments of EU Member States are indeed taken into account by the Court of Justice (which in turn means that it's worth responding to all and any calls by the government for responses to its frequent requests for guidance);
  • it provides a happy precedent for other minority groups (to which this Kat belongs (eg orthodox Jew, IP blogger, fictional cat) who might wish to see their feelings spared with regard to abusive terms;
  • it gives this Kat a rare opportunity to express his pleasure at the outcome of a case before the General Court even though the decision hasn't been issued in the national language of the country in which the applied-for mark was offensive.

13 comments:

Duaa said...

Please do let us know when it is available in English (if ever!), as somone who teaches both IP and discrimination law, it is one case i'd dearly like to read. Sadly my French isn't up to much beyond ordering a cup of tea.

Dave said...

It's a shame that this association between skinheads and racism persists, despite the fact that skinhead culture had strong roots in the Jamaican rude boy music scene. The imagery was adopted by racist neo-nazi groups at a later stage, but anti-racist idealogies still continued to be a part of the skinhead movement.

Perhaps we should try harder to reclaim this particular piece of IP, so that it once more becomes associated with people of different backgrounds united through a common love of music, rather than an odious minority of ignorant thugs?

I for one still have a pair of cherry red Doc Martens in my cupboard which I wear with pride!

Anonymous said...

Dave, what colur laces have you got in your DMs?

Abida said...

Somewhat surprising the applicant argued that PAKI is used by the Pakistani community itself to denote products originating from South Asia - I have never encountered or heard of such use, at least not in the UK anyway, so it will be interesting to read the English translation when it becomes available and see what evidence was filed.
Is the name PAKI Logistics GmbH objectionable as a company name in Germany I wonder ?

Paul said...

Having, sadly, witnessed my wife being shouted at in the street using this abusive term, I am very pleased with the result. There is, however, one instance where I believe it is not an abusive term, or at least not used at all abusively, and that is in the context of cricket. The Australians are The Aussies, the West Indies are the Windies and the Pakistanis are the Pakis. I am not aware of any offence taken by Pakistani cricketers when the term is used this way by their fellow international counterparts.

Anonymous said...

@Abida

From a quick glance, there is no real analysis of evidence filed that the term is used in a non-offensive sense.

I think it was probably accepted that Pakistanis may use the term in a non-offensive manner (as an adjective) but that its use by others is mostly considered offensive.

'Pommy' is fine though.

btw, I don't think many Germans would be offended by a company name PAKi, probably most would assume the name has its roots in "Paket" or "Packen".

Dave said...

RT Anonymous:

Just black ;-)

I should point out that, in my previous post, the piece of IP I was referring to reclaiming was the term "skinhead"...

Philip Eagle said...

With my relatively limited French I gather that the examples of the non-insulting uses of the abbreviation submitted in evidence appeared to be on websites that were by and aimed at members of the Pakistani diaspora and also mainly based in the USA, where the insulting use is less common. Although the gutter element of US anti-Islam blogs seem to be trying to make that use more familiar over there.

Anonymous said...

IP Bloggers are not protected by discrimination law so the Kat is fair game. After the recent news events involving cats (MPs wife done for taking one, woman done for putting cat in bin and recent turmoil at the tory party conference) it seems that where there are cats there is trouble and I can see a public backlash against them.

George R. F. Souter said...

Interesting comment from Merpel on country name rebranding. The Spanish list their national language as “castellano” and, thus, come first on the Curia letterhead (although this is in conformity with the Spanish Constitution). Finland and Sweden insist on using the Finnish and Swedish languages for their respective country names in international gatherings, so that Suomi always sits next to Sverige. If Scotland ever becomes independent, it could opt for its Gaelic name, Alba, to top any list (and, in any event, to precede Albion). Due to the convenient existence of Albania, they wouldn’t even have to sit together!

Ron said...

It has been said that the state formerly known as Upper Volta renamed itself Burkina Faso to improve its alphabetical ranking.

Anonymous said...

I quite like 'Albion'. As we are no longer 'Great' Britain, changing our name to 'Albion' would avoid the humiliation of downgrading ourselves to 'Britain'.

Anonymous said...

Agree with Abida. The term "Paki" is grossly offensive and used to insult any brown skinned person. Immigrants have contributed a lot to Britain, but our contributions are blacked out by the British gutter press and we are always portrayed in negative light. Sadly, 90% of white British people don't read proper newspapers and don't even know the difference between Pakistanis, who are Muslims and Hindu and Sikh Indians (not that it's acceptable to insult Muslims, but at least make sure your racial insults target the right people!).

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