Amidst the major IP disputes of the week, with Ericsson stopping Xiaomi over a patent dispute and the Supreme Court denying Bayer’s appeal against the compulsory license, there were quite a few articles on the USPTO’s rejection of a trademark application called “Comfyballs” to be associated with the sale of men’s underwear. The application was rejected on the ground that the mark was vulgar.

After the laughter died down, I couldn’t help but wonder as to what would have happened if the mark had been filed in India. Indian Law has a provision which clearly states that marks which are obscene and scandalous should not be registered. In an earlier article I had written about how a composite mark with the words ORGY and a strange image was advertised without any objection. As discussed in the earlier article, the test of obscenity or vulgarity is rather subjective and would depend heavily on the Examiner’s knowledge of slan

Since the Comfyballs mark dealt with slang of anatomy, I did a very basic trademark search and I came across some rather interesting marks. Just have a look at these!

What is interesting is to note is that only two of the above mentioned marks were objected to on grounds of the mark being obscene or scandalous. Most of the marks are applied for goods like clothing, perfumes etc. and were advertised and some of them are even registered!

So either the Examiners’ definition of obscenity and scandalous matter is either rather broad or they didn’t know what the words meant [I guess ignorance sometimes is bliss.]

While the marks above were applied for by some applicants, perhaps with a sense of humour, sometimes the Examiners themselves contribute to the hilarity. One application that I came across was applied for the mark BOBSON, but because of a typographical error by the Registry, the mark that was actually registered was BOOBSON!

Scandalous or not, coming across marks like this in the Trademark Journal really brightens up the day over shared laughter at the office.

So getting back to the question of whether Comfyballs would have been registered in India? Quite Possibly! After all going by the slogan of the mark Boobiman [pictured above] – with the Registry “Everything is possible”

This article has been authored by Navarre Roy, an IP Law practitioner.