GASTARBEITER mark expands its presence in Russia

The German word 'Gastarbeiter' ('guestworker') has been part of the Russian language for more than a decade, as guestworkers have come to the country in large numbers to take up job vacancies requiring moderate skills. In 2007 a Moscow-based company registered the trademark GASTARBEITER in Classes 32 and 33 (alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks). However, the GASTARBEITER drinks brand has not sold well and GASTARBEITER drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, are not readily available in wine shops. It appears that the only reason that nobody has filed a non-use cancellation action is because the trademark is not an attractive one.

Notwithstanding the above, another Russian company applied to register the GASTARBEITER trademark in Classes 9 and 25. However, the application was rejected for being contradictory to the public interest and having negative connotations. The applicant appealed the examiner's decision to the Patent Office. The Patent Office examined the appeal and held that a Gastarbeiter is a foreign worker who comes to work to a developed country from a developing country. The word originated in Germany and is understood without translation in many countries, including Russia. The Patent Office also stated that the word has no negative implications and has been included in widely available dictionaries, including business dictionaries. Its meaning is neutral and it is freely used in the media. The word denotes representatives of a certain stratum of society, with no particular positive or negative connotations, and hence did not contradict the public interest.

As a rule, guestworkers come from a different cultural environment and do not always absorb the culture of the host country, and some local people may not welcome them. Thus, the examiner initially concluded that the word contradicted the public interest. An online public poll among guestworkers confirmed that they themselves perceive the word 'gastarbeiter' to be derogatory and would prefer it not be used officially and in the media. However, the Patent Office held that the trademark could be registered and GASTARBEITER clothes and computers will soon be available on the market. The question remains of who the consumers of those goods will be.

This is an Insight article, written by a selected partner as part of IAM's co-published content. Read more on Insight

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