Friday 5 March 2010

Darren Olivier

Pomping our moral fibres

Jacob Zuma’s visit to the UK this week has provoked much controversy and indeed, a great deal of humour. Local headline writers have being having a field day: Zuma’s Royal Pomp, Pomp before talks, Pomp continues for Zuma etc. Blissfully unaware, the Yorkshire Post, Telegraph and other "dailys" in the UK and elsewhere perpetuate the humour with expressions of “pomp and ceremony” despite “ongoing controversy over Zuma’s polygamy”. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the word “pomp” in South Africa takes on an entirely different meaning. “Oh bugger!” I hear them say…. but be careful with that expression too.

According to a recent Greek decision book titles (and for that matter, titles of articles) are not registrable as trade marks because they do not function as such. Perhaps a tragedy that “Pomp before talks” may not be registered in Greece but there would be substantial other difficulties in RSA and in other jurisdictions. Under local legislation, like many others, offensive marks may not be registered as trade marks. The South African registry has historically taken a very robust approach to ensuring a “clean” register and a delightful reminder of that is recorded here. More recently though the local Registry has rejected the label (alongside) as being offensive for energy drinks:

The question of course is how leading RSA newspapers are able to feed off sexual connotations to sell their papers (and by doing so, also influence and/or reflect the moral fibre of local society) yet Registries, rightly or wrongly, do not afford that right to trade mark owners. Take for instance too, the decision in the UK to reject applications for the trade marks "tiny penis" and "fook" on similar grounds. But are Registries in a position to make the call, especially in a multicultural societies like RSA? It must be an extremely difficult task and there will always be a tendency to err on the side of caution meaning that risque brand owners who trade on the edge are always at a disadvantage. The trend in Europe, through the dropping of relative grounds examination, is for Registries to take less of a role in policing Registers for confusion. Is there case for releasing Registries from determining the moral fibre of society...... or is this speculation just pomp?

Darren Olivier

Darren Olivier

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5 March 2010 at 13:14 delete

A helpful on-line dictionary has enlightened me as to the meaning of p**p in RSA. The Yorkshire newspaper copy now becomes hillarious! The UK Trade Mark Registry has allowed FCUK in spite of objections but refused to register Jesus.