Over 120 trademark applications have been filed in the French trademark office and one in Spanish Office (OHIM) to register “JE SUIS CHARLIE”. In Spain, the application has just been presented and the French ones have been declined because it does not qualify for trademark protection since the phrase is «too general» and not associated with a specific origin of goods or services.
The only thing that could be registered is the design of the logo because it is entitled to copyright protection for the artistic expression of the layout but it is not applied to a specific article of manufacture or product.
Other slogans that have been successfully registered apply to a certain product or trademark even though they are general sayings such as “I’m lovin’ it” (McDonals) or “JUST DO IT” (Nike). The difference depends on whether or not the slogan is being used in the same manner as the trademark.
There was a case in 2012 where the Valencian football club tried to register the slogan “Amunt València” (it means ‘Come on Valencia’ in Catalan language) which the supporters shouted during the games to be able use it for marketing strategies (such as printed t-shirts, balls, etc.). But then, the Community TV, “RTVV” presented an objection against this application because they had already registered it in 1996 and that slogan already represented that trademark. The same football club owns other different slogans.
Could someone think that it possible to register “Je suis Charlie” to make profit of it even though it is a slogan that people use to support the victims of a terrorist act? If the patent offices allowed this, we could be facing a future where every Trending Topic on Twitter could be registered minutes after it reaches the top. It is important to have this specific IP law as long as people do not have common sense.