(English) Using a personal name as trademark: First examine the risks! (Part III)

mardi, 26 novembre 2013

(English) Using a personal name as trademark: First examine the risks! (Part III)

By Mathilde PONCHEL LEBOEUF

 

Each one of the Michelin, Ricard and Cassegrain families has committed its name by giving it to its Group. The reverse reality is that the bearers of the names commit the eponymous companies as a whole, in particular through their own statements, even in cases where they no longer have any economic connection with the company!

This is evidenced by recent abuses, or extreme positions taken by certain company officials (or former officials), such as Bernard Marionnaud (http://url.exen.fr/87125/), Jean Paul Guerlain or Guido Barilla. These persons first thought that they were speaking in their own names, while their names are in fact trademarks, so that the owners then have to make considerable fire-fighting communication efforts! What is more, in such cases social networks often act as fire accelerants, through wide and fast dissemination, or even in the form of calls for boycott!

Social networks also give competitors the opportunity to rapidly respond to, and leverage the deviation. This happened not long ago, when Buitoni promptly responded to the homophobic statements made by Guido Barilla (the owner of the famous Italian trademark who had caused something of an outcry in September, saying that he would never create any advertising material involving a “homosexual” family, as he preferred the “traditional family, where the woman plays a crucial part”). Following this deviation, Buitoni immediately used its Facebook page to display a picture of its famous “casa Buitoni” with the doors wide open and a slogan reading “the casa Buitoni is open to all”.

Following the polemic issues concerning Ines de la Fressange (http://url.exen.fr/87120/) and Spanghero (http://url.exen.fr/87121/), these other controversial public statements by company officials (or even former ones) confirm that using a personal name as a trademark is a choice that should be well considered in advanced, just like the associated risks.

While it is not uncommon to provide for certain limitations to the commercial use the founder will be allowed to make of his/her own name after leaving the company, it also seems indispensable to determine in advance what should be considered as acceptable or unacceptable communication by the bearer of the company’s name.

 

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