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EU Blocks 'Brexit Beer' Trademark, First As 'Offensive', Then As Non-Distinctive

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Brexit, as most of you will know, is still a full on mess. And, frankly, it's been a mess since the historic vote was taken and the British public rode a wave of nationalism draped in false promises to decide to economically scuttle their own country. In the nearly three years since, the British government has managed to put on an impressive performance piece on dysfunctional government, managing to refuse to agree on how to actually implement the will of their own people.At the same time that all of this has been going on, some opportunistic folks have been attempting to cash in on the Brexit story by trademarking the term, without even having a plan for how to use those marks. As we've pointed out in past posts, this sort of attempt to cash in is fully annoying, but not illegal. Which makes it sort of strange to watch the EU throw everything against the wall just to see what's sticky enough to deny a UK brewer his trademark for Brexit Beer.Upon first reviewing the application, the EU's IPO denied it on the insane grounds that the term "Brexit" is offensive.

The European Union Intellectual Property Office (Euipo) denied a trademark for a ‘Brexit’ energy beverage back in 2016 after ruling the term was too ‘offensive’ to put on a can. An official had felt ‘citizens across the EU would be deeply offended’ and it would ‘undermine the weight of an expression denoting a seminal moment in the history of the European Union.’
The two men that owned the brewery were understandably confused when told they couldn't have a trademark because a term thrown around their own country with reckless abandon was too offensive. It sure looked for all the world like the EU simply didn't want to put its stamp of approval on the term "Brexit" due to its own political distaste for it. That sure makes more sense than the odd claim that 'Brexit' is going to offend people if given trademark status.So the brewery appealed... and was denied again. Only this time, the excuse was that the term "Brexit" was not distinctive.
This time the Grand Board ruled the word ‘Brexit’ was not ‘distinctive’ enough rather than being offensive, which it rejected. It ruled in its final judgement: ‘The term “Brexit” denotes a sovereign political decision, taken legally and has no negative moral connotations; it is not a provocation or incitement to crime or disorder.
But how does this make any more sense? As we've said, it's annoying when corporate interests attempt to cash in on pop and political culture with trademark law, but it's not against trademark law to do so. And a "Brexit Beer" certainly would be distinctive in the alcohol industry. The craft beer industry in particular has made an industry culture out of playfully referencing all sorts of things with their names and labels. I could see all kinds of creative ways for a "Brexit Beer" to be distinctive.Again, this has the look and feel of the EU making these decisions for political reasons outside the purpose of trademark law. While we don't spend much effort around here arguing for more trademarks, it's worth pointing out when government bodies reject those trademarks improperly as well.

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ICE Tops Its Old Record, Spends Another $820,000 On Cellphone-Cracking Tools

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As consecutive heads of the FBI have whined about the general public's increasing ability to keep their devices and personal data secure with encryption, a number of companies have offered tools that make this a moot point. Grayshift -- the manufacturer of phone-cracking tool GrayKey -- has been selling hundreds of thousands of dollars-worth of devices to other federal agencies not so insistent the only solution is backdoored encryption.ICE is one of these agencies. It led all federal agencies in phone-cracking expenditures in 2018. It spent $384,000 on these tools last year. It wasn't just ICE. Other agencies like the DEA and [checks notes] the Food and Drug Administration have also purchased these devices. But ICE led the pack, most likely because ICE -- along with DHS counterpart CBP -- are engaging in more suspicionless, warrantless device searches than ever.When you don't have a warrant or consent, a third-party tool that can undermine device encryption is the next best thing. ICE must have a lot of phones to search -- or plans on amping up its search count -- because it's more than doubled its spending on GrayKey devices alone. Thomas Brewster of Forbes has more details.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) splurged $820,000 on tech made by Grayshift. The Atlanta-based company makes the GrayKey, previously described as the world's best iPhone hacking tech for police and intelligence agents, allowing them to break passcodes and retrieve information from inside Apple devices.The contract, signed just last week, takes the immigration department's spend with the company to over $1.2 million, following a $384,000 Grayshift deal last year. That's the most spent on the superpowered iPhone hacking service by any government department, local or federal, looking across public records. The deal also marks Grayshift's biggest publicly known contract to date, according to a federal procurement database and state-level records. Its previous biggest, of $484,000, was with the U.S. Secret Service.
Maybe ICE just didn't want the Secret Service to top the list of encryption-breaking expenditures for this fiscal year. Or, more likely, it's seizing devices at a record pace and can't keep up with the rising tide of locked phones it's created.The problem with this isn't that the government has access to devices like this. It's that ICE (and CBP) are operating in a super-gray area, legally-speaking. While courts have tended to allow warrantless searches under the border exception, the agencies themselves have only made this worse by refusing to enact meaningful guidelines that would curb abuses and careless handling of peoples' devices and data. They've created a "wild west" atmosphere every place someone could cross a border, which includes a number of inland international airports.Tools that make it easier for the government to access peoples' papers and communications without a warrant isn't good news for anyone. It's a safe bet that if the judicial and political climate doesn't change, 2020 will bring another record ICE expenditure next year.

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