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TRADEMARK

Star Wars director loses Sweden ‘droid battle’

Lucasfilm, the production company of Star Wars director George Lucas, has lost its bid to prevent a Swedish firm from registering the trademark "Brandroid" despite concerns it is too similar to other Lucasfilm "droid" trademarks.

Star Wars director loses Sweden 'droid battle'

Back in early 2011, Stockholm-based digital branding services company Ocean Observations filed forms with Sweden’s Patent and Trademark Registration Office (PRV) to register the name “Brandroid”.

“The name is a combination of the word ‘brand’ and ‘Android’,” Ocean Observations founder Sofia Svanteson told The Local.

She explained the name stemmed from a project the company had been working on for a client based in Japan aimed at designing a more user-friendly interface for devices used on the Android operating system.

A short time later, however, the company received a letter from Lucasfilm expressing concerns about the “Brandroid” trademark.

The Star Wars director’s company, which has several trademarks registered in Sweden – including “Droid”, “Droids”, and “Idroids” referring to “intelligent robots in the six films included in the Star Wars film series”, feared that the Ocean Observations trademark could cause confusion among consumers.

Lucasfilm claimed that its trademark was “included in its entirety in BRANDROID” and that “the trademarks are visually and aurally similar” and therefore interchangeable.

According to Swedish law, a trademark can’t be registered if “it is identical with or similar to an older brand trademark for goods or services of the same or a similar type” or if there is a risk they could be confused with one another.

However, when Svanteson received word of the complaint, she and her company simply dismissed it.

“We couldn’t imagine that the objection would be taken seriously so we ignored it,” she said.

“There are tons of names out there with the word ‘droid’ in them.”

The Swedish patent office agreed with Svanteson’s view, finding in a recently filed ruling that Lucasfilm’s complaint had no merit.

While PRV admitted that there were similarities between the class of goods and services for which the Lucasfilm and Ocean Observation trademarks had been registered, the agency found there was little chance that consumers would be confused by the two because “BRANDROID” is viewed as a made up word with no connection to the meaning that the term “DROID” has by itself.

Moreover, PRV disputed that “Brandroid” would really be pronounced in a manner that would emphasize “-droid”, arguing speakers would likely pronounce it “brand-roid”.

Svanteson at Ocean Observations said she was “happy” to hear that the patent agency had rejected Lucasfilm’s complaint, but emphasized that her company had never been concerned about it in the first place.

“I’m glad the matter is over, but we were never worried. It felt like the complaint was some sort of automatic response they send out any time someone registered a trademark anywhere with the word ‘droid’ in it,” she told The Local.

David Landes

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NAMES

New rule lets foreigners take common Swedish names

Swedes struggling due to their foreign-sounding names will be able to reinvent themselves as a Svensson, Olsson or Nilsson, Sweden’s tax agency has announced.

New rule lets foreigners take common Swedish names
Female boxer Klara Svensson, singer Barbro Svensson and footballer Anders Svensson. Photo: TT
At present, those seeking to take a new name have to first get the approval of those others who already have the name, effectively ruling out all of the most common Swedish names. 
 
But from July 1 next year, anyone will be able to change their name to any surname already held by more 2,000 people. 
 
“I think is is great,” Ingegerd Widell, from the Swedish Tax Authority told Swedish broadcaster SVT.
 
“We will create a list of the most common surnames as we approach July next year. But you can already go to the Statistics Sweden website and check how many people in Sweden are called by a specific surname.” 
 
Widell said that the Swedish Patent and Registration Office (PRV), which today shares the management of name changes with Sweden’s tax authority, has frequently received applications from people wanting to take a standard Swedish name. 
 
“We know that there is a demand for this,” she said. ”PRV has a lot of such applications today, and it is often about people who want to switch to a more Swedish name.” 
 
Swedes with Arabic or other foreign-sounding names have long complained of discrimination when applying for jobs in Sweden, and a string of studies have found that the complaints are justified. 
 
Researchers at Lund University discovered in 2013 that job applications from those with Swedish names were 50% more likely lead to an interview than those with Arabic names. 
 
A 2006 study by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) found that Swedes with foreign names had to apply for three times as many jobs before finding employment as those with Swedish names. 
 
According to Sweden's tax authority Skatteverket, the most common Swedish surnames of people registered in 2015 were:
 
1. Andersson
2. Johansson
3. Karlsson
4. Nilsson
5. Eriksson ¨
6. Larsson
7. Olsson
8. Persson
9. Svensson
10. Gustafsson
 
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