Complex legislation: the method for adding salt is intellectual property, the taste of the cheese spread is not

The limits of intellectual property expand with the development of technology and changes in society.

The protection of intellectual property is attributed to an increasingly wider selection. European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) and the Court of Justice of the European Union have recently made judgments that explain the limits of modern intellectual property.

First, the viewpoint that expands the limits of intellectual property. Virtually everyone who had access to the internet in 2017, know of the internet sensation called Salt Bae.

In reality, he is a Turkish chef called Nusret Gökçe whose method for adding salt to meat went viral. Fame found on the internet has to be exploited fully, and thus Salt Bae wished to register his unique method as a trademark.

He wanted to register a three-second video clip of him doing the signature move as a trademark. He wanted the trademark to apply for clothes, food, drinks as well as restaurant and catering service. EUIPO decided that the trademark will not be registered with regard to food and drinks because it is not a distinctive mark. Other goods and services were registered as trademarks.

What does it actually mean?

It means that other viral sensations can also try to register their fame-bringing clips as trademarks. It also means that everyone who has used the Salt Bae method has to be more careful with their actions from now on, in order to not get involved in a dispute with regard to trademark infringement.

Taste of cheese does not constitute work

A viewpoint restricting the limits of intellectual property comes from the Court of Justice of the European Union. A cheese spread manufacturer from the Netherlands brought an action against another cheese manufacturer, stating that the other manufacturer’s taste of cheese infringes copyright.

The Netherlands court had decided earlier that the scent of perfumes could be eligible for copyright protection and the cheese manufacturer made its argument based on that.

Despite that, the Court of Justice of the European Union decided that the taste of cheese is not eligible for copyright protection because the taste is subjective and, therefore, cannot be determined objectively. In essence, the court also expressed the view that perfume manufacturers cannot count on copyright protection either.

What to do about food products?

Taste and smell cannot be protected as trademarks – this has been clearly expressed by the EUIPO. Therefore, the only choice for manufacturers of food products and perfumes is to place their hopes on their marketing department and brand in order to retain their competitive edge.

Hence, future internet sensations and everyone else is recommended to take full advantage of their 15 minutes of fame and think about intellectual property in larger terms than just logos and books.

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