EU court rules against 'mafia' trademark for Spanish restaurant

Judges in Luxembourg backed an appeal by the Italian government against the use of the trademark by La Mafia Se Sienta a la Mesa (The Mafia Take A Seat At The Table).
Judges in Luxembourg backed an appeal by the Italian government against the use of the trademark by La Mafia Se Sienta a la Mesa (The Mafia Take A Seat At The Table).PHOTO: REUTERS

BRUSSELS • No, the mafia is not welcome to the dining table.

An European Union court ruled on Thursday that a Spanish restaurant chain cannot trademark a name containing the word "mafia" because it trivialises the Italian criminal organisation .

Judges in Luxembourg backed an appeal by the Italian government against the use of the trademark by La Mafia Se Sienta a la Mesa (The Mafia Take A Seat At The Table).

The chain, which has 40 Italian-style restaurants in Spain, has a logo reminiscent of posters for the film The Godfather (1972), with the words "La Mafia" in large white letters superimposed over a picture of a red rose on a black background.

"The mark 'La Mafia Se Sienta a la Mesa' is contrary to public policy," the General Court of the European Union, the second-highest court in the 28-nation bloc, said.

The trademark "refers to a criminal organisation, conveys a globally positive image of that organisation and trivialises the serious harm done by that organisation to the fundamental values of the EU", the court's statement added.

The company that runs the chain, La Mafia Franchises, applied for the trademark in 2005. But the EU's intellectual property office turned it down in 2015 after the Italian government objected, saying it was "contrary to public policy and to accepted principles of morality".

La Mafia Franchises then lodged an appeal which the EU General Court rejected in its strongly worded statement.

It noted that the word "mafia" was the "dominant element" of the trademark "and is understood worldwide as referring to a criminal organisation that resorts... to intimidation, physical violence and murder in carrying out its activities".

The statement went on to say that "those criminal activities breach the very values on which the EU is founded" and which "make up the spiritual and moral heritage of the EU".

"Moreover, given their crossborder dimension, the Mafia's criminal activities are a serious threat to security throughout the EU."

The issue of the Italian criminal organisation is particularly sensitive in Europe after the murder of a Slovak journalist who had been probing alleged high-level corruption linked to the mafia.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 17, 2018, with the headline 'EU court rules against 'mafia' trademark for Spanish restaurant'. Print Edition | Subscribe