ROUGHNECK Denied TM Registration for Negative Meaning
In an English- Chinese dictionary, roughneck means rude, or a rude fellow, or a noisy and rude fellow. But does it matter for trademark registration? A U.S. firm specialized in making safety gloves attempted to register ROUGHNECK and was denied for its negative meaning, forcing the firm to dive all the way into the system for justice.
Recently, Beijing High People's Court made the final ruling to reject the appeal from RINGERS TECHNOLOGIES LLC, upholding the review decision made by the former Trademark Review and Adjudication Board (TRAB) on rejecting No.20611408 trademark application ROUGHNECK (trademark in dispute).
The trademark in dispute was filed by RINGERS on July 12, 2016, requesting to be certified on the products of Class 25 such as gloves (garments), ski gloves and mittens.
After examination, the Trademark Office (TMO) rejected the application based on the ground that ROUGHNECK was detrimental to socialist morals or customs, or had other unhealthy influences. RINGERS then lodged a review request to the TRAB on May 7, 2017, had no luck there either, and then brought the case to Beijing IP Court.
Beijing IP Court held that ROUGHNECK was translated as rude, a rude fellow and a noisy and rude fellow in Chinese. Rude contains the meaning of violent, cruel and brutal, mainly used to characterize people's language and behaviors, usually carrying negative meanings in most contexts. If it was certified to be used on the products as a trademark, it would depart from the
generally-accepted positive social morals and customs and generate unhealthy influences. Meanwhile, as trademark prosecution might come to different conclusions as facts being considered may differ from one another, the other successful registrations of ROUGHNECK could not be considered as a solid evidence to secure the registration of the trademark in question. Hence, the Court dismissed the request from RINGERS at the first instance.
The disgruntled RINGERS then appealed to Beijing High People's Court. Beijing High held that those detrimental to socialist morals or customs, or having other unhealthy influences could not be used as trademarks according to the Chinese Trademark Law. Socialist morals or customs means living and behavior principles and standards for Chinese people in common and popular positive customs and habits within a certain period. Unhealthy influences means negative influences caused by characters, figures and other components to public interests and orders in Chinese politics, economy, culture, religion and races.
On whether the trademark in dispute was detrimental to socialist morals or customs, or having other unhealthy influences, Beijing High sided with Beijing IP Court.
In this connection, the Court upheld the review decision made by former TRAB and affirmed the judgment at first instance.