Oh, bummer...

Wednesday, September 17, 2014 | 2 comments »

Couldn't decide between the two. So I did both....

Feel free to *right-click* & *save image as* if you feel so moved.


Accept cookies? No.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014 | 0 comments »

EU court ruling takes the biscuit/That's how the cookie crumbles in trademark law/Few crumbs of comfort in biscuit trademark ruling etc etc.

Imagine the scene: The roof of the European Court of Justice canteen, 8.30am. Three judges gather to dose up on nicotine before the morning's judgments and hearings.

J1: So, what do you have this morning?
J2: A couple of Ukrainian oligarchs' frozen assets and the legality of bankers' bonus caps. You?
J1: Me? I have a billion-euro cartel fine on a handful of Fortune 500 blue-chip companies and a spot of precedent-setting in immigrant-workers' rights. What about you?
J3: OH, not much...

J2: No, go on, what you got?

J3: .......not saying
J1: Tell us.
J3: N...
J1: You know we can find out, yeah?

J3: ...........    biscuits.
J1: What?

J3: .... [*mutters*] I have to decide whether a chocolate-chip biscuit with a chocolate layer on the inside is a unique design.

J2: Well that's... that's...
J1: Good for you. 
J2: Yeah .....   good for you.

J1&J2: [*exit left, sniggering*]


For last week was the judicial culmination of five and a half years of litigation on this precise issue through the EU's trademark office and then appealed before the EU courts.

Three actual grown-up lawyers for proper grown-up companies and institutions pleaded before three highly-paid and qualified European judges, arguing over whether this biscuit's construction:

could be trademarked.

After two years of deliberation, those EU General Court judges have said: No. 

They reasoned that "a cookie cannot be considered to be a 'complex product'."

They have refuted the biscuit company's argument "that the layer of chocolate filling inside the cookie becomes visible during ‘normal use’ of the cookie," adding helpfully of 'normal use' that this means "when it is consumed."

They spent serious time and consideration comparing the biscuit with seven other similar biscuits, pictured in the judgment.

After careful deliberation, they conclude that the design of the biscuit doesn't single it out as unique enough for a trademark, taking into account "the smoother surface of the contested design ... together with the differences relating to the number, specific dimensions and somewhat prominent presence of the chocolate chips on each of those designs and on the contested design."

"The irregular, rough surface on the outside of the cookie, its golden colour, round shape and the presence of chocolate chips are characteristics which are common to the conflicting designs and decisive for the overall impression produced on an informed user, so that the contested design cannot be regarded as having individual character."

"Informed user"? Yes. An 'informed biscuit user', submitting the biscuit to what we can assume is 'normal use.'

The company can still appeal to the Court of Justice.

For the final word on biscuit design, we can only assume that the ECJ would assemble the toughest and most experienced judges in such matters:


A kick in the Arias Cañete

Monday, September 15, 2014 | 0 comments »

This Charming Man
There once was a man called Miguel,
Who knew he was bound to get hell,
For being demeaning
To women, and gleaning
A profit from oil as well.

(off-of the news)


Brussels, Brussels, Brussels.

Let me tell you a cautionary tale, in a slightly patronising tone.

Many, many years ago, when the EU was much smaller, and when Directorates-General had numbers, and people wore hats and carried newspapers, there was a European Commission change of guard.

It was a simpler time. EU leaders had chosen the Commission President without troubling the proles, in a smoke-filled backroom that was actually smoke-filled and, indeed, at the back of the building.

They each then submitted their respective commissioner candidates, for what were pretty well-defined portfolios.

There was no speculation that transport could be split between "steam-powered" and "combustion". No notion that Employment and Social Affairs could be handled by one Officer-Class Commissioner for white-collar concerns, and a rank-and-file Commissioner for blue-collar policies.

It was "fish; farm; films; foreigners; and miscellaneous flimflam."

Just a small hat of names, another small hat of jobs, and the parlour-game was to pair the name with the job.

Then, on the eve of the planned final announcement, one newspaper - that shall remain nameless - boldly trumpeted its prediction of who would get what position.

The page-lead spread was illustrated with beaming faces plastered onto a giant wagon-wheel depicting the lucky gravy-trainers and what first-class seat they'd be languishing in for the next five years.

It was confidently based on a cast-iron leak from the most reliable of sources, with the source document stamped with a date only a day or two previously.

But, a day later, when the formal announcement finally came, the vast majority of that newspaper's forecast proved haplessly inaccurate.

Even with the only variables being name and job, a late change to one combination meant a knock-on change to another. Which meant so-and-so was no longer content that whatsisface was getting suchandsuch, so thingumybob had to call in ladida and explain that dieda was getting dingsbums so that ... etc.... etc....

Many years and several administrations later, here we are, days from a possible announcement on a new change of guard.

The candidates are more numerous. Some are not even known. The positions are more proliferous, and aren't even fixed.

Agriculture could still be divided between things that bleed and things that don't. Climate-change could go to two commissioners: one for 'places getting drier', another for 'places getting moister'. And 'culture and media' could get rolled into an overarching copyright-reform dossier (OK, that one's just pure fantasy).

And yet despite all these variables, despite all these unknowns, despite the incoming commission president not having even interviewed all the candidates yet, the purported certainties are flying thick and fast like fruit flies.

And fruit flies, as we know, aren't very fast, but are quite thick.

So just sit back, have a gin, and await the announcement.

Perhaps start work on that that thriller you've always said you'd write.

Just don't base it on this.

There's never going to be a movie called "The Juncker Quandary".