“Black Friday” dates all the way back to Philadelphia, 1869. Used to describe the heavy and disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic on the Friday after Thanksgiving, Black Friday has captured the minds, trollies and wallets of shoppers and become a worldwide shopping craze.
Many have tried to register the name by means of a trademark – making the profiteer’s attraction to protecting the name obvious. A Hong Kong-based company managed to successfully register the Black Friday trademark in Germany, covering a broad range of products, including retail goods. The trademark owner and licensee tried to enforce the trademark rights and stop others from using the term.
The aggressively litigious approach by the trademark owner elicited much reaction in the German retail market, with many retailers changing their marketing campaigns to similar names like “Super Friday” instead of “Black Friday”.
A cultural revolution was born – a faith of merchants finally fought this bullying and applied to cancel the trademark, leading the German Patent and Trademarks Office to cancel the trademark due to it being colloquial and lacking distinctiveness.
Trademark jurisprudence remains resolute – a monopoly over the commons of language cannot, will not, and never have been the purpose of trademark law. Trademarks by their very nature serve as a badge of origin, not as deeds of title to common words and phrases.