LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) - EU judges failed to see the funny side of branding a chain of pizzerias as “The Mafia”, rejecting an appeal on Thursday by a Spanish company to keep European trademark protection for its marketing slogan.
The European Union’s General Court in Luxembourg agreed with a complaint by the Italian government that it was immoral to trade on the name of a “criminal organization” whose “activities breach the very values on which the EU is founded”.
The judgment, which can be appealed to the European Court of Justice, found that the EU Intellectual Property Office was right to accept Italy’s demand in 2015 to cancel a 10-year-old trademark held by La Mafia Franchises of Madrid, which runs a national chain offering pizzas, pasta and other Italian cuisine.
Rejecting the company’s arguments about alluding to “The Godfather” films, the judges said it was not right to grant legal protection to the slogan “La Mafia se sienta a la mesa” — “The Mafia’s at the table” in Spanish — because it “promoted” an organization known for extortion, corruption and murder.
Italy, plagued by the Sicilian crime network for decades, had said the trademark was contrary to “morality”. The court decision does not prevent the firm from using the slogan, but means it can’t rely on trademark protection to stop others from using it without permission.
Reporting by Samantha Koester in Brussels; Editing by Alastair Macdonald and Peter Graff