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Ecuador limits use of phrases, constraining public debate

(Fundamedios/IFEX) - October 12th 2012 - Since July of this year, the terms “30S”, “30-S” and “Prohibido olvidar” (Don't Forget) have become the exclusive property of the government, after the Ecuadorian Institute of Intellectual Property (IEPI) accepted – in its Bulletin No 560 – the registration of these phrases, in effect until May 2022.

However, before this happened, Ecuadorian citizens were the first to use the term “30S” as a hashtag on Twitter to talk about the events of 30 September 2010. That was the date of a police uprising described as an attempted coup d'état by the government party, which was reported with bias after the government ordered the broadcast of an indefinitely long official "cadena" that described only one version of the incidents.

Eduardo Arcos (@earcos), a Twitter user, was the first person to propose the use of “#30S as a short hashtag to identify what happens in #Ecuador”, according to his own personal blog, because it was a "simple way" of grouping all the tweets and news about what was going on at the time, as it was done with other international incidents such as 11-S and 11-M, which recall tragic events in the United States and Spain.

Two years after the events in Ecuador, after the popularization of the term “30S”, the legal reach and implications of the use of the registered phrases is not clear. Some media outlets and social network users continue to employ them openly, while on the other hand, others prefer not to use them although they do refer to the issue.

According to an IEPI official notice, the registered terms are now “part of the State's property and they were requested to identify specific services or campaigns”. It also quotes the Intellectual Property Law, which in article 218 expressly establishes that "as long as it is in good faith and does not infringe this right, any person may use the expression (its use is in good faith when it does not lead to confusion, association or deceit among the consumers)".

Although 30S, 30-S and "Prohibido olvidar" are registered within class 35, which includes business management and commercial administration, Nicolás Solines – a legal expert on issues concerning intellectual and industrial property, from the Solines & Associates law office – commented that this class also includes groups in advertising, from adverts in the streets to those broadcasted by radio or TV, as well as press release services.

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