The name Pablo Escobar may not be registered as an EU trade mark

According to the Judgment of the General Court in Case T-255/23 (Escobar v EUIPO) the name Pablo Escobar may not be registered as an EU trade mark. The public would associate that name with drug trafficking and narco-terrorism. 

On 30 September 2021, Escobar Inc., established in Puerto Rico (United States), filed an application with the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) for registration of the word sign Pablo Escobar as an EU trade mark for a wide range of goods and services. 

The Colombian national named Pablo Escobar, who was born on 1 December 1949 and died on 2 December 1993, is presumed to be a drug lord and a narco-terrorist who founded and was the sole leader of the Medellín cartel (Colombia). 

EUIPO rejected the application for registration on the ground that the mark was contrary to public policy and to accepted principles of morality. It relied on the perception of the Spanish public, as it is the most familiar with Pablo Escobar due to the links between Spain and Colombia. Escobar Inc. brought an action against that decision before the General Court of the European Union. 

The Court upholds the refusal to register the trade mark Pablo Escobar. According to the Court, EUIPO could rely, in its assessment, on the perception of reasonable Spaniards, with average sensitivity and tolerance thresholds and who share the indivisible and universal values on which the European Union is founded (human dignity, freedom, equality and solidarity, and the principles of democracy and the rule of law and the right to life and physical integrity). 

EUIPO correctly found that those persons would associate the name of Pablo Escobar with drug trafficking and narco-terrorism and with the crimes and suffering resulting therefrom, rather than with his possible good deeds in favour of the poor in Colombia (according to Escobar Inc., this earned him the nickname of ‘Robin Hood of Colombia’). 

The trade mark would therefore be perceived as running counter to the fundamental values and moral standards prevailing within Spanish society. The Court adds that Pablo Escobar’s fundamental right to the presumption of innocence has not been infringed because, even though he was never criminally convicted (he was killed by the police.), he is publicly perceived in Spain as a symbol of organised crime responsible for numerous crimes. (source curia.europa.eu/photo freepik.com)

The decision is available here

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Editorial

Editorial
George Kazoleas, Lawyer

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