Fok Hing Gin name deemed offensive in landmark ruling after complaint
A gin brand's name has been deemed offensive by a panel in a landmark ruling after a complaint.
A member of the public complained Fok Hing Gin's name had the potential to cause serious or widespread offence.
The complaint is the first of this nature to be upheld by the Independent Complaints Panel (ICP).
The complainant about the alcohol brand stated: "The name of the product Fok Hing Gin is clearly intended to shock and be pronounced as an offensive term – marketing comments I've seen online include 'Fokthehaters' and 'those who don't like the name can FOK OFF'.
"So despite claims, this is a Hong Kong language term meaning good luck – it's obvious the intention is to shock and offend those who find swearing undesirable and unacceptable."
Incognito Group Limited, which produces the gin, said the name was intended to pay homage to 'Fuk Hing Lane', a street located in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, and the name had been changed from 'Fuk' to 'Fok' to differentiate it from the offensive word used in western culture.
The Fok Hing Gin website reads: "Our name sounds like a popular western profanity, you say?
"While that is a remarkable coincidence, we are actually named after a street in our Hong Kong hometown; a name the locals have long since stopped guffawing at.
"But many visitors to our fine city still see the funny side and we are OK with that. We laugh at ourselves, so why not let visitors in on it? So happy are we, in fact, that we adopted the street name for our gin."
The ICP found that the play on words was intentional and the name had the same potential to cause serious or widespread offence as the word 'f**k', based on the brand's marketing materials.
Commenting on the decision, the chair of the ICP, Nicola Williams, said: "This is the first time since the addition of the rule on serious or widespread offence, that a product's name and packaging was considered under the rule in terms of offensive language.
"It is not appropriate for marketing materials to purposefully link a name to profanity and no responsible marketing should cause serious or widespread offence."
Incognito Group Limited said it would change Fok Hing Gin's labels in light of the ruling.
A spokesperson said: "We strive to be a brand that celebrates the language, culture and heritage of Hong Kong. We are grateful by our UK consumers who have warmly welcomed us into their gin collection and we are delighted to continue serving the market.
"We have agreed to update the reverse label to be more descriptive of the details that inspired our brand, and look forward to introducing our UK fans to a little bit of Hong Kong history whilst they enjoy Fok Hing Gin during the forthcoming festive season and beyond."
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