Lucky Bastard Distillers denied trademark over 'obscene' name

The federal government is halting a Saskatoon distillery’s four-year attempt with trademarking its name.

Saskatoon distiller's 4-year attempt held up by federal government

Lucky Bastard Distillers has been denied of registering a trademark for its name. (Victoria Dinh/CBC)

The federal government is halting a Saskatoon distiller's attempt to trademark its name.

We think that anybody who drinks our vodka is a lucky bastard, and rightfully so.- Cary Bowman, co-owner of Lucky Bastard Distillers

Lucky Bastard Distillers has been trying to trademark the company's name with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office since its inception in 2011, according to co-owner Cary Bowman.

Bowman said the micro-distillery has been denied over the word bastard.

"To us, it's a battle that we want to have. We want to win, because we need to protect our company and our brand," he said.

Under the CIPO guide to trademarks, the kinds of marks that are unacceptable include:

  • Names and surnames.
  • Clearly descriptive marks.
  • Deceptively misdescriptive marks.
  • Words that represent a geographical location commonly known to be the place of origin of such goods or services.
  • Words in other languages.
  • Words or designs that could be confused with a registered trademark or pending trademark.
  • Words or designs that look very similar to a prohibited mark.

When contacted by CBC News and asked about the decision to deny the trademark, CIPO spokeswoman Sabrina Foran said "an initial report was issued on Oct. 8, 2015, wherein the examiner raised an objection pursuant to paragraph 9(1)(j) of the [Trade-marks] Act. The examiner relied on the definition of the word bastard as found in the The Collins English Dictionary."

That section of the act, according to Foran, "prohibits the registration of a trademark that is scandalous, obscene or immoral. Trade-mark examiners analyse the application and research the meanings of words comprising the mark."

Bowman said a letter he received from CIPO in October raised the issue behind the definition of "bastard." By using the Collins English Dictionary, CIPO reasoned that the word meant either "an obnoxious or despicable person" or "a person of unmarried parents" or "an illegitimate baby, child, or adult."

Cary Bowman is the co-owner of Lucky Bastard Distillers. (Victoria Dinh/CBC)

Bowman disputes how his company is using the word bastard. "That's not the connotation that someone would say Lucky Bastard is."

Bowman said the usage of the word doesn't need to have negative connotations. "We think that anybody who drinks our vodka is a lucky bastard, and rightfully so."

There are currently trademarked names that include the word "bastard." When Bowman raised the issue, he was told it all comes down to where the application is examined.

He said the distillery has already spent about $5,000 on legal fees and is working on its third appeal of the rejection. For now, they'll have to stick with their registered name LB Distillers.

With files from CBC's Victoria Dinh