Hugo Boss And Art Teacher Reach ‘Amicable Solution’ Over ‘Be Boss, Be Kind’ Trademark Application

from the who’s-the-boss? dept

Several weeks back, we discussed how Hugo Boss, German upscale clothier, had opposed the trademark application for an artist who has taken to teaching online art classes during the pandemic. At issue was John Charles’ decision to apply for a trademark on the phrase he used to sign off at the end of these classes: “Be Boss, Be Kind.” That he had begun selling shirts and hats with the slogan on it, alongside the trademark application, was enough to get Hugo Boss’ lawyers working on opposing the application and sending a legal threat letter to Charles, despite the fact that any claims about potential customer confusion between the two entities is laughable at best.

As we noted at the time, while any legal letter such as this is at least mildly scary for someone like Charles, it should be stated that Hugo Boss wasn’t overly threatening in the letter. Instead, the letter stated that the company would be opposing the trademark application, but was willing to drop the matter entirely if that application was withdrawn. In public comments, too, Hugo Boss made it clear that it was looking for an amicable resolution to the situation.

And that, almost certainly in large part to the swift public backlash that occurred, is precisely what happened.

Now, Hugo Boss and the popular artist have reached an ‘amicable solution’ – and John has said ‘it was all worth it.’

John said: ‘We’ve now reached an amicable solution and the key thing is that we’re able to continue our free online art classes and release our merchandise to the public officially. I’d like to say a massive thank you to the public for all their support, it’s been really overwhelming.”

As usual, the exact details of this amicable solution aren’t explained publicly, but it’s worth noting that nowhere in any of the coverage currently is the acknowledgement that Charles has been allowed to proceed with his trademark application. And that, frankly, is the detail we should be focused on. Yes, it’s good that Hugo Boss isn’t threatening Charles with legal action. Yes, it’s also good that he’s being allowed to continue his art classes and even sell his merch with the slogan. That’s somewhat more permissive than I expected out of Hugo Boss.

But there was never a valid trademark issue here in the first place and, while I don’t really see why Charles needs this trademark for which he applied, he certainly should have gotten it. “Be Boss, Be Kind” is not going to confuse someone into thinking a t-shirt is a Hugo Boss t-shirt. The reach of Charles’ audience isn’t a threat to Hugo Boss, either. No part of this screamed for a resolution of anything at all, amicable or otherwise.

It’s sort of an offshoot of how trademark bullying is effective. On the one hand, a large enough company can bully smaller entities into not using anything remotely like its registered trademark, validly or otherwise, just because of the costs associated with those threats. Or there are cases such as this, where the big company can bully the smaller entity until it gets news coverage talking about a supposedly amicable deal.

Both are pernicious, if not equally so.

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Filed Under: art teachers, be boss, be kind, boss, hats, john charles, shirts, trademark
Companies: hugo boss

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Lionel Messi wins nine-year fight to trademark his surname

Image copyright
Getty Images

Footballer Lionel Messi can register his name as a trademark after a nine-year legal battle, the EU’s top court has ruled.

The European Court of Justice dismissed an appeal from Spanish cycling company Massi and the EU’s intellectual property office, EUIPO.

The Barcelona footballer first applied to trademark his surname as a sportswear brand in 2011.

But Massi argued the similarity between their logos would cause confusion.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) said that the star player’s reputation could be taken into account when weighing up whether the public would be able to tell the difference between the two brands.

In doing so, it upheld a ruling by the EU’s General Court in 2018 that the footballer was too well known for confusion to arise.

Massi, which sells cycle clothing and equipment, was successful in its initial challenge to the Barcelona striker’s application. But it lost out when Lionel Messi brought an appeal to the General Court, which ruled in his favour.

Messi, 33, who wears the number 10 shirt, has been crowned world football player of the year a record six times and is the world’s highest-paid soccer player, according to Forbes. It puts his total earnings for 2020 at $126m (£97m).

In August, he made headlines by sending a fax to his club declaring his intention to leave.

But when Barcelona responded by insisting that any team that took him on would have to honour a €700m (£624m) release clause, he changed his mind, saying he did not want to face “the club I love” in court.

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Lionel Messi wins 9-year trademark battle with EU top court ruling – POLITICO

Lionel Messi is seeking to register a logo featuring his name and a letter M | Pool photo by Manu Fernandez/Getty Images

The footballer can register a trademark under his name, the judges rule.



Footballer Lionel Messi can register a trademark under his name, the EU’s top court confirmed Thursday after a nine-year legal fight.

The judges at the Court of Justice of the European Union upheld a 2018 General Court ruling, which found that Messi’s fame made it unlikely his label would be confused with the similar-sounding Spanish cycling brand Massi.

Messi has tried to register an EU-wide trademark for a logo consisting of his name and a stylized letter M since 2011.

Messi appealed the footballer’s application to the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), saying the trademark names would be too similar, and initially succeeded until the General Court’s annulment of the decision in 2018. Both EUIPO and Massi appealed against the 2018 ruling.

Yet the Court of Justice confirmed the lower court’s decision, saying: “The General Court was correct to find that, given that the reputation of the name Messi, as the family name of a football player who is famous throughout the world and as a public figure, constituted a well-known fact.”

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