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Friday, 3 December, 1999, 13:10 GMT
Judge's fury at four-letter ads
Lennox Lewis Boxer Lennox Lewis in a French Connection hat

A fashion label's controversial four-letter trademark has been condemned by a judge as "offensive and tasteless".

French Connection is trying to stop an internet consultant from using the website name fcuk.com which the company says exploits its successful "fcuk" trademark.

But the legal challenge suffered a blow on Friday when Mr Justice Rattee branded the slogan "obnoxious" and refused to grant an immediate injunction to bar the website.

The judge said: "How can you talk about goodwill in connection with such a tasteless and obnoxious campaign?

"Fcuk is just a euphemism for the obscene expletive f***.

"It may be you have been hoist by your own petard in using such an extraordinary advertising slogan."

Earlier this year the company considered taking legal action against young Tories in the Conservative Future group, for using the logo "cfuk" on leaflets distributed around universities.

Obscene connotations

Mary Vitoria, for French Connection, told the court that it had been a "clever and successful" campaign and fcuk was now instantly associated with the fashion company.

She added: "Your lordship may find it offensive. I might find it offensive. But young people who buy clothes do not find it offensive, they find it amusing."

But the judge said that a full trial of the issues concerned would be needed for a ruling to be made.

He said the High Court might be able to review the registration of the trademark, and whether it should have been refused because of its obscene connotations.

'Fcuk' avoids internet filters

Internet consultant Tony Sutton, 31, of south London, registered his domain name a few days before French Connection Ltd registered its trademark in April 1997.

The "fcuk" advertising campaign had already been running for a year.

Jonathan Turner, representing Mr Sutton, said "fcuk" was widely used in Internet circles as an alternative to f*** and was a way of avoiding filters and controls on websites.

He said his client, who trades under the name of First Consultant UK, saw it as a chance to attract attention to his business.

Mr Turner said: "It was seen as clever by the claimant, why should it not be seen as clever by the defendant?"

The judge said he could not reject Mr Sutton's evidence that the letters were used on the internet as an alternative to the expletive before French Connection began its advertising campaign.

French Connection spent 3m on the three-year campaign, and was the subject of three Advertising Standards Authority investigations.

The Authority banned two of the adverts, but allowed the third use of the slogan after it had been registered as a trademark
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See also:
15 Sep 99 |  UK Politics
Young Tories threatened over logo

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