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Famous Trademark Registration Refusals

Written by Rehana Ali on 05 June 2013

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The purpose of a Trade Mark is to distinguish goods or services between traders and make them identifiable as originating from a particular source. Trade mark legislation lays down a number of rules and conditions that must be satisfied before a trade mark may be registered.

In order to prevent an owner from unfairly obtaining a monopoly a Trade Mark will be refused registration in the following circumstances:

  • The mark is descriptive of goods or services.
  • The mark consists of customary words.
  • The mark is non- distinctive.
  • The mark is laudatory.
  • The mark may conflict with an earlier registered mark.


Famous Trade mark Registration failures

Harley Davidson

The sound of a revving engine.


The yellow smiley face (that has been in use for over the last 40 years).

Gareth Bale (Footballer Tottenham Hotspur)

The heart shaped hand gesture he uses when celebrating a goal.

Donald Trump

The term ‘you’re fired’ in relation to the US version of the Apprentice.


The designer Coco Chanel in their attempted registration of the word ‘Jersey’ faced fierce opposition from inhabitants of the Channel Islands, the senator of Jersey commented the opposition was in relation to ownership of the name and not to stop Chanel from using the name.

Walt Disney

The Spanish equivalent of ‘Day of the Dead’ (a Mexican holiday), was faced with a petition with over 21,000 signatories generated in the space of a day.  

The name SEAL Team 6, (the name of the navy team that killed Osama Bin Laden) Disney attempted to register this just two days after the killing and had proposed to use the mark on children’s toys and games??

If you would like further information on registering a mark, just click this link!

If you'd like to know more about this article please send an email to Michael Coyle quoting the article title and any questions you might have, alternatively call the office number on 02380 235 979 or send an enquiry through our contact form.

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