Company Trademarks ‘Cariad’ Causing Outcry

Company Trademarks ‘Cariad’ Causing Outcry

Key Contact: Cordelia Payne

Author: Adam Munn

A decision by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) to allow a candle-making company, Fizzy Foam Ltd, to trade mark the Welsh words ‘cariad’ (which translates to ‘love’), ‘hiraeth’ (which loosely translates to ‘longing for home’) and the words ‘Welsh cakes’ has caused quite a stir, with many people criticising the decision on the basis that these words should be free for others to use.  

When considering a trade mark application, the IPO can refuse to grant approval for a number of reasons. For example, if the words are offensive, include any national flags or emblems, describe the goods or services to which they relate or if the words are void of distinctive character.

In this instance, one of the key considerations is whether the trade marked words are sufficiently distinctive in relation to the sale of candles. For example, the word ‘cariad’ is a common word but yet Fizzy Foam Ltd were allowed to trade mark the term. One argument is that when used in connection with the manufacture and sale of candles, the word ‘cariad’ is arbitrary and is therefore sufficiently ‘distinctive’.

However, despite ‘cariad’ appearing to be distinctive when used in connection with candles, this may not actually reflect the true reality of the situation. One other trader has already voiced their concerns as they also sell candles bearing the word ‘cariad’. Given the commonality of the word and the product, there is a strong possibility that they are not the only one and there are likely to be many other traders who are in a similar position. In this context, it can be argued that the words are not distinctive, and therefore the applications should never have been approved. Furthermore, trade marks grant a monopoly right in perpetuity of identical or confusingly similar marks, in this case, in relation to candles. This means that other traders will be prevented from selling candles bearing the words ‘cariad’, ‘hiraeth’ or ‘Welsh cakes’ or otherwise risk the possibility of facing a claim for trade mark infringement.

For any aggrieved traders, there is the possibility to object to the IPO’s decision if they have sufficient grounds to do so (for example, if a trader can demonstrate that they have been selling candles bearing the trade marked words for a longer period than Fizzy Foam Ltd) or if they consider the decision to be incorrect.  

Registering trade marks is an effective way to protect your business’ brand, including the use of those trade marks, and so business owners should not be put off by the controversy this situation has caused. When seeking to register trade marks, it is important to obtain legal advice to help you through the process.

If you would like some expert advice about how to register trademarks and protect your business’ intellectual property, please contact Cordelia Payne at [email protected]

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