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Belgian told: ‘Je suis libre (et gratuite)’

Richard Bell

The most popular social media trend of the embryonic year has been ‘Je suis Charlie’. French for ‘I am Charlie’, it went viral following the terror attacks in Paris.

However, plans to trademark the phrase, which was picked up quickly and globally on social media platforms the world over, have now  been stopped.

The withdrawal comes after an unsurprising social media backlash over the plans.

The primary application to trademark the phrase was made in Belgium, by businessman Yanick Uytterhaegen. He submitted a trademark request for use of the phrase commercially to the Benelux Trademarks Office.

Any granting of the registration would have been applicable in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg, which constitute the Benelux countries. It is understood that the trademark application would have covered most commercial products, including footwear, clothing, and hair products.

In a show of the immense power of social media in the corporate world, a storm was soon stirred as details of such applications for the impassioned phrase came to light.

Other phrases, such as “tasteless” and “money grabbing”, were soon being bandied around, and those are just a couple of the more acceptable ones. It was following this social outpouring of contempt that a withdrawal request was apparently processed, although M. Uytterhaegen had not yet commented on the development.

The phrase at the centre of the controversy was initially created by Joachim Roncin, a Parisian who lives close to where the first attack took place.

The French Intellectual Property Office revealed that there have been more than 100 requests to trademark Je Suis Charlie. At Pressroom however, we believe that any claim is unlikely to succeed, with trademark experts much to the same opinion.

Speaking to IBTimes, Chris McLeod, the director of trademarks at Squire Patton Boggs, said that as it is so embedded in the public domain already, even the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo would struggle to trademark it.

Richard has a First in English Literature and Creative Writing, and has experience writing fiction and short stories (which he has published both online and in magazines).

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