Namesake of first president barred from selling 'Masaryk' wine

The founder of Czechoslovakia Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk is one of the biggest names in this country’s history. And his name is not to be taken in vain – at least that’s what the Czech Industrial Property Office has told one Slovak winemaker seeking to register his products here. Alojz Masaryk has been told that his family-produced ‘Masaryk’ wine cannot be trademarked in the Czech Republic because of the symbolic value attached to the name. In response, the winemaker is considering legal action.

Alojz Masaryk is angry about the Czech Industrial Property Office’s decision. But, he says, he has no plans to rebrand his product for the Czech market:

“I can’t change it, how can I change it when I am registered under that name here in Slovakia, and have been for the last 11 years? And I’m called Masaryk, and I named my wine after my family! And I never once thought it would be such a problem in the Czech Republic!”

But the head of the Czech Industrial Property Office, Karel Čada, says that by law, he cannot approve Mr Masaryk’s application:

“The law does not allow us to include this product in the index of trademarks, because the name of the product has a high symbolic value. The name Masaryk has so much symbolism that a wine bearing this title could evoke the first Czechoslovak president. And it is not suitable for an alcoholic beverage to do such a thing. So, for this reason, we turned down the application.”

Alojz Masaryk says that the patenting impasse has had no effect on sales:

“I have been selling my wine in the Czech Republic from the start. Selling the wine hasn’t been a problem, patenting it has. And registering the trademark is important to me because this is what every good firm does. They do it so that someone else doesn’t steal it – think of Budweiser and that big law suit a few years ago. People register their product so that someone else doesn’t come along and steal it.”

Karel Čada from the patenting office says that Mr Masaryk can appeal the ruling in the Czech courts. Mr Masaryk is currently considering his options, legal action being one of them. At the moment, he’s not a happy man:

“Other firms, making different things, have managed to patent ‘Masaryk’ products in the Czech Republic. And that is what bothers me the most – that I cannot register my own name, while other firms with nothing to do with the name have been able to do so. Masaryk was a Slovak, he is part of our heritage, I maybe even have some of his blood in my veins, but I can’t use the name, while other firms without this close connection can.”

For now, it’s sour grapes for Mr Masaryk. But, if he does choose to contest the verdict, the Czech Court of Appeal may give the Slovak vintner something to cheer about.