Legally Stolen or Playing With Fire?

A French company has registered a trademark for the Anonymous image of a headless suited man, along with their slogan “We are Anonymous, We do not forgive, We do not forget. Expect us.” The French company Early Flicker or EFLicker as it is commonly known has registered the trademark in France and currently sells t-shirts bearing the easily recognizeable Anonymous logo and slogan.

Anonymous has been noticeably annoyed by this action taken by the French company and has released a statement via a Youtube video saying , “The 99% will not stop until the registration has been revoked and a public apology has been made,” along with threatening to “take down any business they have going on the Internet”.

This was an incredibly foolish move by the French company. If they wanted to sell Anonymous shirts they could have. Anonymous loves its supporters, and would probably not even realize the shirts were being sold by such a small Internet company. But to start a war with a group compiling the world’s best hackers in order to trademark what is clearly their symbol and slogan when you are a tiny company that does business online is incredibly stupid. Of course your site is going to be hacked, of course you are going to receive DDoS attacks, and who in their right mind is going to buy Anonymous merchandise from a company that is at war with the group?

One of the reasons these events could happen, though unlikely, is if this was a trap set by some government agency to catch Anonymous hackers, knowing that the trademark issue would certainly bring cyber attacks. Other than that very unlikely scenario, this may be one of the dumbest decisions an online company could have made.

However stupid the decision, it does point out some glaring problems and injustices in the way the trademarking process works. The Anonymous symbol of the headless suited man is recognizeable worldwide as their symbol, and the slogan has been used for years by the group. Yet a French company with no history linking them to the origins of the symbol or the slogan was able to trademark both because they went through the pointless beurocracy and forms first.

Anonymous was in no way informed that their original logo and trademark were being trademarked by a company in France, and #INN’s expert on copyright and trademark law informs us that they would have needed to search the INPI (Institut National De La Propriete Industrielle) database for trademark disputes within 30 days of the trademark being filed.

So basically if someone comes up with an idea for a symbol and uses it for years as the logo for their organization but never takes the time to go through all of the beurocracy and paperwork just to pay a fee in order to state that they came up with the idea for the logo, then someone else can claim ownership of it randomly on any day, despite the fact that they can show having used the exact logo years prior to the trademark being filed.

It’s an absolutely absurd system and completely flawed. By trying to protect intellectual property the system actually creates a way for a company or person to legally steal the intellectual property of another person, who may be unaware that their property is being stolen before it is too late. The kicker is that the company who stole the logo can turn around and sue or charge royalties for every time the creator of the logo uses the symbol after the trademark has gone through.

The trademark laws of France, and any mirroring these (such as the United States) need to be rethought and examined. Early Flicker will be hacked because legal justice has failed in this instance, and one can hardly blame the Anonymous organization for these actions.