The country of Columbia has refused to grant a trademark registration to the family of reputed drug lord Pablo Escobar. After an initial objection, Escobar’s widow and two children appealed. The Commission of Industry and Commerce issued a final denial.

The agency found that granting a trademark would “be immoral and subvert public order,” according to the Associated Press. It further acknowledged that the name Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria is linked with a dark period of violence in Colombia that resulted in the deaths of thousands of Columbians.

Interestingly, a search of the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) reveals that Pablo Escobar is a registered trademark in the United States. The mark consists of an unreadable signature followed by a fingerprint and below them the words PABLO EMILIO ESCOBAR GAVIRIA. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office approved the application in 2012 for use on hats, t-shirts, sweatshirts and related articles of clothing.

Like Columbia, U.S. copyright law bars federal registration of immoral or scandalous matter as a trademark. It also prohibits matter that may be disparaging to “people, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols.”

Prior to deeming a trademark unacceptable, the Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure requires examiners to “provide evidence that a substantial portion of the general public would consider the mark to be scandalous in the context of contemporary attitudes and the relevant marketplace.”

While cases tend to make headlines, the “scandalous or immoral” exception is one of most uncommon reasons for trademark denial.

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– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +