Go to the Wikipedia entry for the word “fuck” and it gets right to the point, defining it as “an English word that is almost universally considered vulgar.” That’s unsurprising; if anything, the inclusion of word “almost,” seems out of place. But as a creative beer company demonstrated in 2010, there really is an “almost.”
On June 6, 2007, a pair of German businessmen named Stefan Fellenberg and Florian Krause submitted a trademark application to OHIM, the EU’s trademark office, requesting a trademark over the term “fucking hell.” Fellenberg and Krause wanted to produce a beer under that brand name, most likely because of the obvious marketing potential of the name. But, as reported by Radio Netherlands Worldwide, the trademark office rejected their bid, citing the phrase’s “sexual connotation.”
Undaunted, Fellenberg and Krause appealed. They argued that the name “Fucking Hell” was descriptive — not of the after-effects of imbibing their product, but of the product’s origins.
As noted by the Huffington Post, the two men claimed that Fucking Hell Beer was conceived as a light beer intended to be produced in Austria. Specifically, they centered on a small town on the German border named Fucking (pronounced “fooking” — it rhymes with the English word “booking”), which is perhaps best known for its traffic sign, above, notifying motorists about their entry into the village. (Assuming the sign is there, that is; it has been stolen a dozen or so times.) The “hell” part? In German, it can mean “light-colored” or “pale,” in the right context. And in this case, context is everything, as “Fucking Hell” purportedly (and, obviously fictitiously) means “The pale beer from the Austrian village named ‘Fucking.'”
OHIM changed their decision. Whether that argument carried the day is, while widely reported, not what OHIM stated explicitly. Rather, per Vanity Fair, OHIM concluded that “[t]he word combination claimed contains no semantic indication that could refer to a certain person or group of persons. Nor does it incite a particular act. It cannot even be understood as an instruction that the reader should go to hell.” And its probably very good for Fellenberg and Krause that OHIM decided to base their decision on that. It turns out that Fucking Hell, in the end, is not produced in Fucking, Austria after all. The town still does not have a brewery.
Today, the pair has the trademark they applied for, which gives them rights over the term “fucking hell” for all sorts of drinks (not just beer) as well as for branded clothing. As for the beer, it’s probably not very good.
From the Archives: Foul Tip: The same f-word, accidentally appearing on a baseball card.
Related: “Dirty Signs: The World’s 150 Most Unfortunately Named Streets, Towns and Places” by Rob Bailey and Ed Hurst. Unreviewed, but almost certainly references the above-noted Austrian town. And likely, Intercourse, Pennsylvania, too.
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