“Pablo Escobar” blocked as a trademark

Last Wednesday, the EU General Court in Luxembourg upholds yesterday the previous refusal from EUIPO to register the European trademark “Pablo Escobar” for a wide range of products and services.

Originally, this application was filed on 30 September 2021 as a word trademark before EUIPO. This Office rejected the application for registration on the ground that the mark was contrary to public policy and principles of morality, since Pablo Escobar was presumed to be an international drug lord and a narco-terrorist who founded and was the sole leader of the Medellín cartel (Colombia), although he was never criminally convicted.

According to the Court decision, EUIPO correctly found that relevant public in the case at hand (Spanish consumers) would associate the name of Pablo Escobar with drug trafficking and narco-terrorism and with the crimes and suffering resulting therefrom, rather than with his possible good deeds in favour of the poor in Colombia, as the applicant (Escobar Inc.) claimed. The applicant also argued that names such as “Bonnie and Clyde”, “Al Capone” or “Che Guevara” were already registered as EU trademarks and that “Pablo Escobar”, become a mythical figure in mainstream popular culture”.

The Court concluded that Pablo Escobar’s fundamental right to the presumption of innocence has not been infringed with this decision of refusal, because he is publicly perceived in Spain as a symbol of organized crime responsible for numerous crimes.

Notwithstanding, this judgment can still be appealed against before the European Court of Justice.

We have been drawn to the fact that in its original decision on February 2023, EUIPO also referenced a ruling in which the registration of a restaurant chain, called “La Mafia se sienta a la Mesa” (“The Mafia sits at the table”) was also refused in 2018 because it could be perceived as immoral by the average citizen. However, this same trademark is in force as a Spanish trademark before OEPM and has fifty open restaurants providing services nowadays.

In conclusion, it seems that EUIPO, in line with EU General Court, applies stricter criteria than OEPM, when examining controversial marks.

Raquel Tostón Ruiz