Trademarks identify a particular product or service and enable consumers to quickly identify the source of a given good. In order to meet this function they must be distinctive. Trademark law protects the owner’s right to use the trademark exclusively and prevent others using a mark that is confusingly similar. Use of an identical mark on the same product would be considered confusing and could clearly constitute infringement.
So far so good. But are you aware that the same standards exist for naming pedigree horses?
WorldFengur is the Icelandic committee in charge of the official register of the Icelandic horses breed. They have recently passed a rule stating that names must be of Icelandic heritage for them to be included in the official database. There are more than 400,000 horses registered across Europe and the USA. The two-person Horse Naming Committee has been set up to stop people giving obscene names to their horses but mainly to ensure that the names respect Icelandic tradition and grammar rules. It seems that purchasers don’t want their Icelandic horses to have foreign names.
Other countries have naming rules for horses too. The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) controls the appropriateness of names when horses are added to their database. In addition to being available – like trademarks – there is a long list of criteria that applicants need to meet. Here are some of the restrictions on name availability:
- Names of more than 18 characters, including signs or spaces
- Names followed by one or more numbers or which start with a sign other than a letter
- Names made up entirely of initials, or which include figures, hyphens, full-stops, commas, signs, exclamation marks, inverted commas, forward or back slash, colon and semi-colon
- The name of a public person or names of commercial significance without the appropriate permission
- Names considered in poor taste or which may cause offence.
Further, when applying to the BHA for your name approval you need to supply two proposed names in order of preference with an explanation of the origin or meaning of the name. This all sounds familiar – a bit like applying for a drug marketing authorisation. One fun difference is that there is a Horse Name Availability Search tool that will not only tell you if the name is free but will provide some great alternatives if not.