The Vienna Agreement Viewed Through Gendered Lenses

Gokcen Uzer Cengelci / Mikko J Virtanen,

The Vienna Agreement was concluded in Vienna in 1973 and amended in 1985. It establishes a classification (the Vienna Classification) for marks that consist of, or contain, figurative elements. It is administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

Vienna Classification in a Nutshell

In brief, the aim of the Vienna Classification is to archive similar images, found in similar classes. When using the Classification, image searches at an international level are enabled.  The Vienna Classification constitutes a hierarchical system that proceeds from the general to the particular, dividing all figurative elements into categories, divisions, and sections - based on their shape. In order to update the system consistently, a number of Revisions and Editions have been made.  The current (eighth) edition has been in force since January 1, 2018. 

The ‘Other Women’ 

Do the current trade images really fit when it comes to human-related classes? For example, imagine you are searching for images that cover women divers. But wait! As per the Classification, images of divers are regulated only under ‘men’, so if you need to find an image for women divers there is no particular category for that. You have to look for the pool classification category defined as ‘other women’. 

On the other side of the coin, if you would like to find an image of hard-working men cooking, or doing housework, you will probably not be able to find a specific category for that either. This is only a specific category for women under category 2.3.11

Suitability of Classification as per Human-Related Classes

We can see other terminologies and descriptions delineated under ‘men’ and ‘women’ in the Vienna Classification. Acrobats, butchers, chefs, pastrycooks, sailors, seamen, fishermen, pirates, peasants, workers in the fields, divers and frogmen are only mentioned under the ‘men’ category. Whereas women cooking or doing housework, women doing agricultural work, women sewing, spinning or knitting, women with typewriters or doing other office work are described only under the ‘women’ category. 

A Crowded House

If we search in the ‘other women and other men’ category we will see that this pool category is rather crowded. Different gender descriptions are causing the pool to become more and more crowded each day. This is due to the neutralization of gender issues as per trade images. 

Graph 1


Take Home Message 

On a final note, we are happy to see that astronauts are mentioned in both the ‘men’ and ‘women’ categories! So, the main message here is that more neutral gender issues in the classification will result in better, and more relevant, image searches for us all.


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