Linguistic laughs -- an expert writes

The IPKat's venerable and learned friend Dr Alexander von Mühlendahl is a man whose experiences both as Vice-President of OHIM and as an attorney in private practice have given him some precious insights into the linguistic problems that have beset Europe's Long March to harmonisation, the single market and a common understanding.

Right: the Verpiss-Dich plant, originally designated Coleus canina (presumably on account of its smell), is now thought to be a Plectranthus: see the IPKat note on Schrader v CPVO here

Prompted by David Keeling's recent post he tells the Kat:
"The laugh is certainly called for.

The original language of the Plectranthus case is German, and in that language all the terminology put on his pointed needle by David Keeling is indeed correct: the term in Article 7 of the Plant Variety Regulation is "Unterscheidbarkeit"; in the English it is "Distinctness" (English mother tongue/readers may know how to distinguish between distinctness, distinctivity, and distinctiveness). In French it should be -- the Article 7 term -- distinction, a term at times properly used in the French translation of the judgment (which may well be the original), but even there at times the "caractère distinctif" raises its head (e.g. in para. 25 of the judgment), while the proper term should have been "distinction".

The problem thus is one of proper translation, rather than sloppy language in the original. David, who in one of his past lives was at the ECJ's translation service, will know how difficult the task is.

Perhaps your readers may also chuckle at another translation "error":

The applicant in the case had claimed that the variety SUMCOL 01 for which protection was sought had already been marketed in the European Union in January 2001, under the designation "Verpiss Dich". A proper rendering in English would have been "Piss Off", but the translation service prissily chose "get lost" (in para. 12) (imagine the smell of the plant!)

As for the discretion that the CFI grants the CPVO, anything else would have come as a surprise, given the sometimes time-consuming and complicated examinations carried out by the CPVO and the participating national offices in determining stability, distinctness, novelty, etc. - it is difficult to imagine the CFI itself carrying out a re-examination or appointing experts to do so. Perhaps trade marks are indeed less complicated than plant varieties".
Plant samples here and here
Urine samples here and here
Why we love cat pee, but hate dog pee here
Thomas Bowdler here
Linguistic laughs -- an expert writes Linguistic laughs -- an expert writes Reviewed by Jeremy on Monday, November 24, 2008 Rating: 5


  1. The German Wikipedia has an entry.
    The plant is a Plectranthus hybrid.
    It says that the name Piss Off Plant was coined by the Swabian gardener Dieter Stegmeier from Essingen. He has been selling the plant since 2001 as a protection against dog shit on flowerbeds and lawns. It's a cross between P. caninus and another P. Similar crosses are known in English-speaking countries as "Scaredy Cat Plant" or "Pee-off plant".

  2. For the IPKat's information, the Verpiss Dich plant has been successfully marketed in Germany aimed at garden owners who are fed up with visits from the local cats and dogs seeking to relieve themselves. Apparently, the plant has an unpleasant odour which cats and dogs seek to avoid. When I bought some to try out, there was a label in the pot indicating that they were subject to some form of protective right (can't remember if it was a patent or variety) but how this could be used against private users taking cuttings etc. was beyond me.

  3. The advocate general has issued her/his opinion in the appeal before the CFI, recommending the rejection of Mr Schraeder's appeal:


All comments must be moderated by a member of the IPKat team before they appear on the blog. Comments will not be allowed if the contravene the IPKat policy that readers' comments should not be obscene or defamatory; they should not consist of ad hominem attacks on members of the blog team or other comment-posters and they should make a constructive contribution to the discussion of the post on which they purport to comment.

It is also the IPKat policy that comments should not be made completely anonymously, and users should use a consistent name or pseudonym (which should not itself be defamatory or obscene, or that of another real person), either in the "identity" field, or at the beginning of the comment. Current practice is to, however, allow a limited number of comments that contravene this policy, provided that the comment has a high degree of relevance and the comment chain does not become too difficult to follow.

Learn more here:

Powered by Blogger.