Thursday 17 April 2008

Darren Olivier


A colourful letter from a frustrated US attorney in 1970 arguing for the acceptance of the "offending" trade marks BUM and THE BUM SHIRT in which he "fear(s) very strongly for the intellectual level of (the) South Afrikaner" and describes the Registrar at the time as having "not yet climbed out of the slime in which he was spawned..". A delightful read.

"I have your letter of 16 October 1970 in the above and I am rather surprised that the Registrar would take such completely moronic view of the situation. Had the individual any intelligence, he would know that no business man in his right mind would use a term with vulgar meaning to sell reasonably high-priced merchandise. Where a word like “Bum” might possibly give offence to delicate Registrars of Trade Marks in the under side of the world when applied to such things as underpants, it has only a connotation of casualness and ease when applied to anything else.

With regard to the mark THE BUM SHIRT the situation is even more remarkable for it is utterly inconceivable that the term in THE BUM SHIRT can be related to what the Registrar obviously feels is the primary meaning of the work “BUM”. So far as I am concerned, the particular Registrar has not yet climbed out of the slime in which he was spawned to persist in such a completely idiotic decision. I see that both the Deputy Registrar and the Registrar have concurred in the idiocy reflected by their most recent decisions.

Our Trade Mark Office has at its disposal every English language dictionary in current use throughout the world. The definition of “BUM” which has an off-color meaning does not appear in relation to an individual’s backside. As a matter of fact, Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged Edition, does not even give the slang definition. The Random House Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged Edition, similarly fails to relate the word “Bum” to anything which might be offensive. The word “Bum” occupies over two columns in the “Dictionary of American Slang” published in 1960, copies of which are enclosed. Some sixteen definitions are given of the word as a noun and you will find the definition “the human posterior” as the very last.

It is inconceivable, therefore, for anyone on your side of the water to follow and accept the six percent view of the meaning of the word taken by the Deputy Registrar and the Registrar. I fear very strongly for the intellectual level of South Afrikaner who must continue to live subject to such thinking. Our Patent Office, operating under a law which prevents registration of offensive trademarks, has no difficulty in registering “THE BUM SHIRT” and a copy of Reg. No. is enclosed. No registration has been sought in any other nation of the commonwealth.

I wonder if you would dare to show the Registrar a copy of this letter. If nothing else, it might be a good mental cathartic. However, if in your timid judgment you fear reprisal for calling the shovel the shovel it is, you may limit Application No. 0585 to the device and THE B—SHIRT.

By the way, has the Registrar been able to overcome his delicacy to the extent of registering BEACH BUM? It would be interesting to know what happened to that trademark application and even more interesting for the Examiner to explain away the fact that more human posteriors are seen currently on beaches than any place outside houses of ill repute.

You will gather from all the above that I am a bit upset. If you reach this conclusion, you will be absolutely correct. I am annoyed as all get our with what I feel is narrow-minded stupidity bordering on outright illiteracy.

PS I am even use this letter as basis for a thesis on "Phobias of the World". I have a doctorate in law but a doctorate in philosophy might not be amiss if I could squeak through for one with a thesis on this general subject"

Needless to say, the letter did not appear to find success as AFRO-IP could not find either of the trade marks on the SA Registry website using his online login. AFRO-IP also tried to contact the attorney for his view on the UK Registry's rejection of TINY PENIS for shirts and to ask him for a copy of his doctorate(s) but sadly found that this colourful attorney passed away in the late seventies.

Darren Olivier

Darren Olivier

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18 April 2008 at 12:44 delete

Good Friday reading I agree!