While checking the JPO decisions, we found an interesting case.
First, a summary of the applied-for trade marks is as follows.
Trademark: Fintan (standard characters).
Application number: Commercial Application 2018-23724
Designated goods and services: category 9 "computers, computer programs (including those downloaded through telecommunications lines)" and others.
The above trade mark was refused on the grounds of Article 4(1)(vii) of the Trade Marks Act.
This is the so-called 'public order violation' reason for rejection.
The main parts of the reasons for refusal, which are a little long, are quoted (underlining by the author). .
The character "Finntan" is the name of the character that appeared in July 2012 as the official embassy account on Twitter, the social networking service of the Embassy of Finland in Japan, as indicated separately. In recent years, foreign embassies and government organisations in Japan have increasingly used characters to raise the profile of their respective countries. It is the embassy account with the highest number of followers among all embassies in the world and is the embassy account with the highest number of followers on the Twitter list, which is a sufficient contribution to raising Finland's profile. In view of these circumstances, it is considered that the trademark is simply the character "Finntan", which is widely known as the character of the Embassy of Finland in Japan, written in European characters, and that use of the trademark by the applicant, a private individual, for commercial purposes would be taking advantage of the publicity activities of the Embassy of Finland in Japan, which in turn would contribute to raising the profile of Finland. Therefore, the applicant's adoption and use of the trademark is contrary to international good faith and may be detrimental to public order or good morals. The applicant's trademark therefore falls under Article 4(1)(vii) of the Trademark Act."
Article 4(1)(vii) provides that a trademark that is 'likely to be injurious to public order or good morals' cannot be registered. The description is a little vague, but according to the examination criteria, the following trademarks fall under this category. In short, it could be said that trademarks that are "unsuitable for registration in the light of common sense" fall under this category.
The trademark itself is immoral, obscene, discriminatory, violent or offensive to others.
The use of the trademark is prohibited by other laws.
... insulting to a particular State or its nationals, or generally contrary to international faith.
The trademark is not acceptable if, for example, there is a lack of social relevance in the circumstances of the application for the trademark in question, such that granting registration would be contrary to the order contemplated by the Trademark Law.
The case was rejected at examination as falling under the underlined 'cases contrary to international deliberations'.
In other words, the applied-for trade mark "Fintan" is merely the European character for "Fintan", which is widely known as the character of the Embassy of Finland in Japan, and its exclusive use by a private individual for commercial purposes is likely to undermine Finland's authority and dignity and is therefore outrageous! The reason for this is that the use of the character for commercial purposes by a private individual may undermine Finnish authority and dignity.
I didn't know this character "Finn Tan", so I checked it out immediately ↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓.
(Embassy of Finland website).
Sorry. It was a little different from what I imagined...
I took the liberty of imagining a Moomin-like character (hey). It seems that he is a seven-year-old boy with blonde hair and keen eyes who wears a lion costume. Incidentally, the Embassy of Finland in Japan has about 160,000 Twitter followers as of March 2021. He is an influencer.
Fintan is the character of the Embassy of Finland in Japan, so even though he is somewhat well-known in Japan, to Finns back home he is still a bit of a mystery. What's that?" The decision was taken into account. I thought the decision was based on this consideration.
However. If I were to research this trade mark before filing the application, I am honestly not very confident that I would have pointed out the possibility of a violation of public order and morality during the examination. I'm afraid it would be difficult for my client to react if I told him that the name of the character of the Embassy of Finland in Japan might be an obstacle to your trademark." It's an unnecessary worry...
The above story shows that it's difficult to make a preliminary judgement on whether or not a public order violation has been committed.
From now on, we will keep a close eye on the character of the embassies in Japan and investigate them!