Apr 16, 2018

Light at the end of the tunnel for 'Black Friday' trade mark monopoly

The American term, 'Black Friday', which refers to the day after Thanksgiving when retailers slash prices and make special offers, has become an entrenched phenomenon in many of the world's markets where it has incited the same madness as it has in the US. Many argue the term Black Friday was coined as a result of the sheer amount of pandemonium and chaos caused by hordes of shoppers hell-bent on coming away with the best deals, however the actual origin of the term is disputed.

Germany is an example of a country whose market has seen the adoption of this phenomenon however a monopoly over the words 'Black Friday' has meant German retailers have been aggressively warned against their use of the mark. That is, until now.

A Hong Kong based company, Super Union Holding Limited, obtained a trade mark for the word 'Black Friday' in Germany in 2016 and has since sought to profusely defend and enforce their mark and capitalise on it through licensing the mark to retailers.

Annoyed by the monopolisation of the term, a number of German retailers took to file cancellation applications against the mark to the German Patent and Trade Mark Office (PTO). Some of these retailers included Puma and PayPal. The retailers argued that the term 'Black Friday' falls into the public domain and has become colloquial through its extensive use.

Fortunately for German retailers, the German PTO has now declared that the term lacks distinctiveness meaning the term is now free for all to use. There is no doubt, however, that Super Union will appeal this decision but given the fact the term was introduced in Europe over 10 years ago and has become an entrenched part of our culture, it will be interesting to see how an appeal would pan out.


in: News, Trade Marks

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