Swiss manufacturer Oettinger Davidoff is launching a new brand of cigars paying homage to one of the world's most recognised cigar smokers, the wartime prime minister Winston Churchill.
The deal gives the luxury goods firm the exclusive right to use the former PM's signature, the Churchill coat of arms, all quotations by Churchill and reproductions of his paintings by arrangement, in relation to the production, marketing and distribution of a new range of cigars which it hopes to launch in the UK market.
The deal came about after Churchill's grandson discovered that a US based cigar manufacturing firm were attempting to formally register the family name for its own branding purposes. He claims that he did not want the family name to be used in connection with potentially sub-standard products, and was left with no option but to register the name for this purpose.
The new brand of cigars has already been launched by Davidoff in the US, and will be introduced into the UK later this year provided that the Winston Churchill trade mark is approved by the UK Intellectual Property Office (UK IPO).
The UK IPO is the official government organisation which is responsible for granting IP rights in the UK. There are certain criteria which must be met in order to satisfy the UK IPO that an application to register a trade mark is necessary. The trade mark must be distinctive for the goods or services which a person is applying to register it for. However, a trade mark must not be simply descriptive of a characteristic of the goods or services to which it applies.
Interestingly, in common "cigar speak", the name "Churchill" has been used for many years to describe a Cuban Havana cigar measuring precisely 178mm by 18.65mm, as a result of Churchill's renowned fondness for quality Cuban cigars.
The proposed registration of the Churchill name in the UK illustrates the growing custom for famous names (whether in respect of persons living or dead) to be registered. In deciding such applications the UK IPO seems to take the approach of considering whether the famous name is so descriptive in relation to the goods/services for which registration is sought that consumers could not perceive it as anything other than a description of the subject matter of those goods or services.
In relation to famous names of deceased persons, consumers are likely to view this as a historical reference to the subject matter of the goods/services. However an important factor in the decision making process of the UK IPO is to look at the relationship between the goods/services in the application and those associated with the deceased person, in this case the former PM's grandson.
It remains to be seen whether the UK IPO will consider the "Winston Churchill" name as inextricably linked with smoking cigars, and grant the application.