• Marie-Avril Roux Steinkühler

🇬🇧 - A seat at the table? Trademarks and the mafia


No, the mafia do not get a seat at the table in the area of trademarks. The application of “La mafia se sienta à la mesa” (“takes a seat at the table”) was declared invalid by the General Court of the European Union (La Mafia Franchises v EUIPO, 15th March 2018, T-1/17) as had been requested by the Italian Republic before the EUIPO. The brand had been registered by the company “La Honorable Hermanda” (“The Honorable Brotherhood”)

The reason: It was contrary to public policy and accepted principles of morality protected by Article 7 (1) (f) of EU Regulation 207/2009, which became Regulation 2017/1001.

However, the brand was not without humour, registered in Class 35, the provision of services and help in the management of the business affairs (those of the mafia?); Class 25, the production of shoes (non-orthopaedic ones though) and Class 43, providing food and drink. All this accompanied by the image of a red rose.

The brand was first deemed to be acceptable by the European Union Intellectual Property Office, where it was registered in 2007. A few years later i.e. eight, the Italian Republic filed an application for declaration of invalidity due to the brand going against the public order and accepted morals. In particular, the word “mafia” refers to a criminal organisation and the use of this word, which has deeply negative connotations, when setting up a chain of restaurants would distort the positive image of the Italian gastronomy and normalize the negative sense of the word.

Certainly, the phrase « se sienta a la mesa » which means “take a seat at the table” in Spanish, could, by a significant part of the public, be perceived as the sharing of a meal. However, associating the Mafia with the idea of a friendly and relaxing meal contributes to the normalization of their illegal activities and seems to give the world a more positive impression of the Mafia.

It is irrelevant that other brands containing the term “mafia” had been registered previously by the European Union Intellectual Property Office and even by the Italian Patent and Trade Mark Office, as the practice of the Office, the legislation – although harmonized – and the jurisprudence of a Union member could not call into question the relevant, independent regulation of the EU.


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