Chat sh*t and get banged – how offensive does a trade mark have to be to be refused registration?

On 2 December 2016, the company V9 Media Limited, which has two directors, Jamie Richard Vardy and Rebekah Vardy applied to register 5 trade marks in the United Kingdom.  The marks were V9 ACADEMY, V9, JAMIE VARDY, JAMIE VARDY’S HAVING A PARTY and CHAT SH*T GET BANGED.  All the marks are now registered, but the scope of the CHAT SH*T GET BANGED application was limited after filing, to focus the protection on goods for adults, and was registered in March 2017.

This appears to be the truth behind the rather more controversial story run by the Daily Mail on 31 July 2019 https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7303713/Jamie-Rebekah-Vardy-fail-bid-trademark-phrase-Chat-s-banged.html

In this article, it was claimed that Jamie and Rebekah had failed in an attempt to get the mark registered after ‘rapper Stomzy said it in a new song with Ed Sheeran’. It also went on to report that the Intellectual Property Office ‘…denied their bid to protect its use in music because it contained an expletive.’

The application appears never to have covered recorded music, nor entertainment services.  However, the application wasn’t limited to items for adults when it was filed, and, particularly interestingly, covered school satchels, school bags and baby carriers!  One assumes that the UK Intellectual Property Office were a bit squeamish about allowing registration of the mark for those items and for any other items which might be purchased by children, while accepting the phrase is not something adults would find particularly shocking. CHAT SH*T GET BANGED is apparently a term widely used by Jamie Vardy, and means ‘those who speak ill of others can expect negative consequences’. Some internet comments suggest the term should in fact be CHAT SH*T GET HIT, which is more readily understandable, as well as being more poetic!

Trade mark laws throughout the world generally prohibit registration of marks which are offensive, but a lot of marks fall into a grey area and the trade mark offices have to make a difficult judgement-call over whether a mark is entitled to protection or not.  The FCUK brand is probably the most famous/ widely used, ‘offensive’ brand in the UK and although it is a registered trade mark, the mark was the subject of a lengthy dispute https://www.ipo.gov.uk/t-challenge-decision-results/o13706.pdf as to whether it was entitled to protection. The question of whether the mark is validly registered is probably still one on which there are mixed views. For anyone wanting to know more, the UK Intellectual Property Office has a detailed practice guide, see this link https://www.gov.uk/guidance/trade-marks-manual/the-examination-guide  and scroll down to ‘offensive marks’.

It is not uncommon for journalists to get completely the wrong end of the stick regarding trade mark cases, but even so, the Daily Mail’s reporting of this case is very depressing. Some of the comments on the case are worth a read, though, if you appreciate a certain type of wit! My favourite at the time of writing this was ‘Jamie Vardy had one good season. Can I get that trademarked???’. The answer (particularly given that Jamie has registered his name as a trade mark) is ‘probably not’. But it would be fun to try.

By Cathy Ayers

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Posted on: 1st August 2019