Artistic names and surnames
A trademark cannot be registered if it contains, in full or in part, something that can be conceived as someone else’s generally known artistic name, similar name or surname with special protection.
This is applicable if the use of the trademark would be to the disadvantage of the bearer of the name and if it obviously does not refer to someone deceased for at least 70 years.
Artistic names usually become known to a greater extent than other names and therefore become of economic importance. In addition to artistic names, pseudonyms and signatures also have protection, as have artist names and special names through which athletes have made themselves known. Note that assumed artistic names or the like must be involved. An ordinary name that an artist or sports personality bears, such as Stefan Holm or Carolina Gynning, is not protected; however, Foppa or Lady Gaga might be.
Generally known names
For the above names to be protected, they must be generally known in Sweden. The name must have been of some historical importance in Sweden or be so well known in some other way that it is inappropriate for someone who is not related to the bearer of the name to have a trademark all or part of which consists of that name.
To the disadvantage of the original bearer
Since there is an economic value in the names of artists and other generally known individuals, it can be to their disadvantage if someone else uses their surname in a trademark and benefits from the value built up.
If a mark applied for contains something that can be conceived as someone else’s generally known artistic name, the mark can only be registered if the bearer consents to this.
Does someone else bear the surname?
For a surname to be seen as an impediment to registration of a trademark, the name must be borne by someone other than the person making the application.
The protection provided by the Personal Names Act is not limited to identical names; it is sufficient if a trademark can be confused with a surname. The Supreme Court has, for example, made the assessment that Gullmarsstrand is easily confused with Gullmarstrand and Vänerskog with Wänerskog.
Surnames with special protection
A surname has special protection if fewer than 2 000 individuals bear it.
To the disadvantage of the bearer
For there to be an impediment to the use of the surname, it must be to the disadvantage of the bearer and troublesome in practice. The wish of the bearer to be alone in having their name is not a sufficient reason.
In most instances PRV is unable to determine whether the use of the trademark would be to the disadvantage of the person bearing the name. Therefore the bearer of the name usually needs to state their own opposition and to point out how the use of the name would be to their personal disadvantage.
There are still instances where PRV can make the assessment, on its own initiative, that it would be to the disadvantage of the bearer if the name was used in a trademark. For example, we can refuse a trademark applied for and refer to the surname impediment if the trademark itself or the goods and services covered by the application contain something that can be conceived as offensive to be linked with.
It can also be viewed as a disadvantage if someone’s trademark contains a known person’s distinctive surname and its intended use is for goods or services that the person is known for.