Court rules that ‘Pablo Escobar’ cannot be trademarked

Matthew Howe  17-04-2024

The European Court of Justice has upheld the decision of the Intellectual Property Office that the name of famous Columbian drug lord, Pablo Escobar, cannot be registered as a trademark.

Pablo Escobar died in 1993, after becoming notorious worldwide and amassing a fortune, as the leader of a violent drug cartel. 

The World Intellectual Property Office defines a trademark as a sign capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one enterprise from those of other enterprises. A sign can be a symbol, phrase, word or even colour in certain circumstances. Well known trademarks would include McDonald’s golden arches and the Nike name and swoosh.

Escobar Inc applied to register the name "Pablo Escobar" as a trademark, to be used in relation to the sale of smartphones and crypto currency. The Intellectual Property Office initially rejected the application on the basis that the mark would was contrary to accepted principles of morality. It is well established that marks cannot be offensive or rude.

However, Escobar Inc disputed the decision of the Intellectual Property Office and argued that other famous names, such as "Al Capone", had successfully been trademarked in the past.

The European Court of Justice dismissed the appeal against the rejection of the application, on the basis that Europeans “would associate the name of Pablo Escobar with drug trafficking and narco-terrorism and with the crimes and suffering resulting therefrom".

Escobar Inc has the right to appeal the decision but is not clear as to whether it intends to do so in light of the Court’s comments.

If you have tried and failed to register a trademark, if someone is using your trademark without your permission, or if you have any other issues with your intellectual property, contact us to see how we can help. You will be able speak to one of our expert solicitors for a free initial discussion. 

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