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Comedy of errors

india Updated: Apr 03, 2010 02:05 IST
Girija Duggal
Girija Duggal
Hindustan Times
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Snigger all you want, ye with dirty minds. It was probably an unsuspecting mortal unfamiliar with the English language — or with a wicked sense of humour — who once upon a time decided to name a town in Upper Austria ‘Fucking’. Little could he’ve known that one day, an enterprising duo from Germany would capitalise on it by naming their beer F***ing Hell… and that the EU Trademark office would give them the go-ahead.

The news reached me thanks to a link posted by a friend on Facebook earlier this week. The culprits in this comic tale are German marketing executives Stefan Fellenberg and Florian Krause, who’d applied to the EU Trade Marks and Designs Registration Office to register the brand name. Their application was rejected at first, but the officials relented once the pair proved it was named after an actual town. You see, their proposed name could just mean ‘light ale from F***ing’, if you take into account that ‘Helles’ means ‘light ale’ in that part of the world.

So earlier this week, the Office issued the following solemn statement: “The word combination claimed contains no semantic indication that could refer to a certain person or group of persons… It cannot even be understood as an instruction that the reader should go to hell… Nor can it be considered as reprehensible to use existing place names in a targeted manner merely because this may have an ambiguous meaning in other languages.”

Oh what a delightful situation! No wonder it has become fodder for a storm of jibes online, centred on other possible wickedly ambiguous names, or ways in which to order the lager in question. My only question is this — were a similar situation to arise in India, what would the people at the registration office do? I suspect they’ll simply tell the applicants to bugger off.