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Finnish ex-rally star Grönholm gives up protecting "Black Friday" trademark

There's a reason why "Black Friday" sales seem to be at an all-time high in Finland this year. Retired rally driver Marcus Grönholm says it's all due to him.

Marcus Grönholm
Finnish former rally-driving star and current entrepreneur Marcus Grönholm. Image: Tomi Hänninen
Yle News

Veteran rally driver and entrepreneur Marcus Grönholm's firm, MG Properties, runs the Strand shopping centre in the southern Finnish village of Inkoo, which held its first Black Friday sales campaign in 2011.

Following the sale's success that year, Grönholm registered the term "Black Friday" at Finland's patent office in 2012, giving his company exclusive legal rights to use the phrase in the country.

The concept of Black Friday sales comes from the United States and is observed by retailers and shoppers on the day after the Thanksgiving holiday, which falls on the third Thursday every November. Black Friday has been the biggest shopping day of the year in the US since 2005 - and is said to be the day when retailers' begin to make profits, with sales ledgers going from "in the red," into "the black."

At the time Finland's Patent and Registration Office apparently wasn't aware that the phrase or concept of Black Friday was one that could be used in everyday speech and used by countless retailers in the US and elsewhere.

"It was very easy to get it registered," Grönholm said.

But over the next few years other retailers in Finland also started using the term as they tried to kick-start the holiday shopping season. One of those firms was the electronics and appliance retailer Gigantti.

Grönholm contacted the firm - and others - telling them he owned the rights to use of the term in Finland. But he said that these days he simply doesn't have the energy to keep track of firms who advertise their own Black Friday sales events.

Not what it used to be

He said he understands that the phrase has become too commonly-used for him to keep hold of his rights to its use.

"Black Friday is all around the world and on the internet. Before, I thought I could do something about it, but this is how things are now. The Patent and Registration Office made a mistake when they granted me the trademark in the first place," Grönholm said.

Black Friday sales are now more common than ever, both in Finland and around the world. Now the special sales campaigns often last an entire week, and Grönholm is perplexed about that development.

"Earlier it was a question of one day and that was good. Now Finns want week-long consumer fests. Black Friday isn't the same as I envisioned it," the former rally driver star said.

However, Grönholm's shopping centre still uses the phrase on the third Friday of November, but he won't be taking part.

"I'll be travelling abroad. I will not be taking part in all the fuss," he said.

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