Frank is not a Mark

It’s a small house, but an enormous tourist attraction in Amsterdam: the Anne Frank House.

Named after Anne Frank, a daughter of a Jewish couple that hid from the Germans in a secret annex, behind a bookcase, during the Second World War. Anne used her diary to get her frustration of hiding off her chest. A diary that has become world famous after her death.

The Anne Frank Fonds (AFF) is the non-profit organization that holds the rights for the works, letters and photos of Anne Frank and the members of her family and protects their personal rights, tried to register the word marks “Het dagboek van Anne Frank” (The Diary of Anne Frank) and “Het Achterhuis” (“The Secret Annex”) for goods in classes 9, 16, 39 and 41. The Benelux Trademarks Office refused the trademarks on absolute grounds, stating that they lack distinctive character.

In appeal AFF requested the trademark to be registered, and asked that the European Court of Justice will be requested to confirm that a book title can be registered as a trademark.

The Court of Appeal, however, states that the names in question are not distinctive, as they merely refer to a character that is referred to in the product (like Harry Potter, Dora, Miffy?).

Furthermore, the Court states that it is undesirable to register the names, as they are ‘common good’. When AFF may register them as a trade mark, it is impossible for others to publish the materials under the original name. It is also undesirable that such a monopoly belongs to someone other than the heirs of the author. Finally, a registered trademark does not guarantee the authenticity of the works of the product.

The names “Het dagboek van Anne Frank” (The Diary of Anne Frank) and “Het Achterhuis” (“The Secret Annex”) will therefore remain free for anybody to use. Which is not so bad, as this is a story that cannot be told or published enough.

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