Canada joins three key agreements regarding international trademark protection

pexels-photo-756790.jpegWIPO reports for the accession of Canada to three important agreements for international protection of trademarks – the Madrid Protocol, Nice Agreement and the Singapore Treaty.

This by itself is a big relief and good news for every trademark applicant, especially an international one because until now Canada has been the last country, member of G8, which didn’t sign these agreements that facilitate significantly the process of trademark protection around the world.

All above-mentioned agreements will enter into force for the country on 17.06.2019, a date after which it will be possible for Canada to be designated in applications for international trademarks.

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Industrial lighting is not similar to Christmas tree lights according to the EU Court

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The Malaysian company IQ Group Holdings filed an application for LUMIQS as an European trademark through the Madrid system for the following goods:

Class 11: ‘Lighting fixtures for commercial use; LED (light-emitting diodes) lamps; light-emitting lighting apparatus; apparatus for lighting; electric lighting apparatus; bulbs for lighting; casings for lights; ceiling light fittings; ceiling lights; desk lights; electric lights; emergency lights; filters for lighting apparatus; gas lights; light bars; light reflectors; light shades; lighting panels; outdoor lightings; outdoor lighting fittings; spotlights; lighting tubes; security lightings; but not including Christmas tree lights or any of the aforesaid goods being for use with Christmas tree lights, and not including festival lights or any of the aforesaid goods for use with festival lights’.

Against this application, an opposition was filed by the German company  Krinner Innovation on the ground of its earlier European trademark LIMIX for classes:

Class 11: ‘lighting installations, namely electric lights for Christmas trees (chains of candle lights or decorative Christmas tree lights, candle lights without cables, decorative Christmas tree lights without cables), decorative, low-voltage Christmas tree lights’;

Class 28: ‘electric decorations for Christmas trees (chains and decorative Christmas tree lights without cables)’;

Initially, EUIPO upheld the opposition considering both signs similar for similar goods.

In the appeal, however, the General Court annulled this decision concluding that EUIPO erred in its assessment regarding the goods similarity.

According to the court:

In the present case, however, it is clear that the protection of the earlier marks is explicitly restricted to certain goods in Classes 11 and 28 for which they have been registered and does not extend to the goods in Class 11 referred to in the international registration in question. Moreover, the latter registration expressly excludes ‘Christmas tree lights or any of the aforesaid goods being for use with Christmas tree lights’ and ‘festival lights or any of the aforesaid goods for use with festival lights’ covered by the earlier marks.

Furthermore, it is not disputed that the goods concerned have different intended purposes. Thus, the goods in Class 11 covered by the international registration designating the European Union are used for practical and industrial purposes, whereas the goods in Classes 11 and 28 covered by the earlier marks, in respect of which proof of genuine use has been demonstrated, serve exclusively decorative and aesthetic purposes for Christmas trees.

 It follows from the foregoing that lighting apparatus for industrial use, on the one hand, and electric lights and decorations, on the other hand, cannot be deemed to be similar on the basis of the mere fact that they are both ‘light sources’ or ‘electrical lighting apparatus’, given that the nature and intended purpose of those goods are different, and that they are neither complementary nor in competition.

In addition, the fact that goods may be sold in the same commercial establishments, such as department stores or supermarkets, is not of particular importance, since very different kinds of goods may be found in such retail outlets and consumers do not automatically assume that they are from the same source. Thus, the sale of the goods covered by the conflicting signs may take place in retail outlets which are geographically close, without this giving rise to a clear complementarity between those goods from the consumer’s point of view. The same applies when, as in the present case, the goods at issue are sold online.

The full text of this decision can be found here.

Breaking news – EU Parliament gave its approval to the EU copyright reform

2048393.jpgToday, 26.03.2018, the European Parliament approved the controversial copyright reform with 348 votes in favor, 274 against. This brings the reform one step closer to its final adoption in the EU. What will follow is formal approval by the European ministers. In a nutshell this reform concerns:

  • Social media platforms will have to keep even a closer eye on every possible copyright violation;
  • Web content providers will have to sign license agreements with right holders;
  • News providers will have to negotiate and get a license from publishers in order to use their news and articles;
  • Non-profit organizations, including websites such as Wikipedia, are not bound to these rules;
  • Startup companies with annual turnover up to 10 million dollars are excluded too.

More information can be found here.

Source: DW.

 

 

Furnishing fabric can be a trademark – a decision by the EU Court

sofa-2155865_960_720.jpgThe European Court has issued a decision in case C‑21/18 Textilis Ltd, Ozgur Keskin v Svenskt Tenn AB, which concerns the following:

Svenskt Tenn markets and sells furniture and furnishing fabrics and other decorative accessories.

During the 1930s, Svenskt Tenn started to work with the architect, Joseph Frank, who designed various patterns for furnishing fabrics for it, including a pattern called MANHATTAN, which it markets and sells and in respect of which Svenskt Tenn claims to be the holder of rights under copyright law.

On 4 January 2012, Svenskt Tenn filed an application for registration of an EU trade mark with the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). That figurative mark, designated MANHATTAN, was registered under number 010540268.

The goods and services for which that mark has been registered are in Classes 11, 16, 20, 21, 24, 27 and 35 of the Nice Agreement concerning the International Classification of Goods and Services for the Purposes of the Registration of Marks of 15 June 1957, as revised and amended, and correspond to inter alia, lampshades (Class 11), table cloths, table napkins of paper; coasters of paper; wrapping paper; writing or drawing books (Class 16), furniture (Class 20), household or kitchen utensils and containers; brushes; glassware, porcelain and earthenware not included in other classes (Class 21), textiles and textile goods, not included in other classes; bed and table covers (Class 24), carpets; wall hangings (non-textile); wallpaper (Class 27), retail services connected with the sale of furniture, cushions, mirrors, wallpaper, carpets, lamps, textile fabrics, textile products, fancy goods, household and kitchen utensils and containers, tableware, glassware, porcelain, earthenware, candlesticks, paper napkins, bags, jewellery, books and magazines (Class 35).

The figurative mark MANHATTAN is represented as follows:

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Textilis is a company incorporated under English law, owned by Mr Keskin, whose online trading activity began in 2013. The company has marketed fabrics and goods for interior decoration bearing patterns similar to those of the figurative mark MANHATTAN.

Svenskt Tenn brought an action for infringement of the trade mark MANHATTAN of which it is the proprietor and an action for infringement of its copyright against Textilis and Mr Keskin before the Stockholms tingsrätt (District Court, Stockholm, Sweden). It also applied for an order that Textilis and Mr Keskin, on pain of a penalty, be prohibited, first, from marketing or distributing in any other way to the Swedish public certain designated objects and, second, from using that mark in Sweden for fabrics, cushions and furniture.

In response to those actions, Textilis and Mr Keskin brought before that court a counter-claim for a declaration that the trade mark MANHATTAN is invalid, in that, first, it lacks distinctive character and, second, having regard to the way in which it is used, it is made up of a shape which gives substantial value to the goods, within the meaning of Article 7(1)(e)(iii) of Regulation No 207/2009.

The Stockholms tingsrätt (District Court, Stockholm) dismissed the counterclaim, inter alia on the grounds that, first, under Article 4 of Regulation No 207/2009, all signs capable of being represented graphically, in particular drawings may be EU trade marks, provided that they have a distinctive character and, second, the mark MANHATTAN is not a shape within the meaning of Article 7(1)(e)(iii) of that regulation.

The Stockholms tingsrätt (District Court, Stockholm) ruled that Textilis and Mr Keskin had infringed the trade mark MANHATTAN and, moreover, had infringed the copyright of which Svenskt Tenn was also the proprietor.

Textilis and Mr Keskin appealed against that judgment before the Svea hovrätt, Patent- och marknadsöverdomstolen (Svea Court of Appeal, Patents and Market Court of Appeal, Stockholm), seeking, inter alia, a declaration, on the basis of Article 7(1)(e)(iii) of Regulation No 207/2009, that the trade mark MANHATTAN is invalid.

In support of their appeal, they argue that a sign consisting of the pattern on a fabric cannot be registered as a trade mark without subverting the principle of the limitation in time of copyright protection. They are of the view that this is why Article 7(1)(e)(iii) of Regulation No 207/2009 precludes the registration as a trade mark of signs which consist exclusively of a shape which gives substantial value to the goods.

Conversely, Svenskt Tenn contends that signs consisting of the shape of patterns may be registered as EU trade marks, such as the figurative mark MANHATTAN.

The Svea hovrätt, Patent- och marknadsöverdomstolen (Svea Court of Appeal, Patents and Market Court of Appeal, Stockholm) seeks to ascertain whether a figurative mark such as MANHATTAN, which consists of the two-dimensional representation of two-dimensional goods, such as fabric, can be regarded as a shape within the meaning of that provision. It underlines in this respect that it is clear from Article 7(1)(e)(iii) of Regulation No 207/2009 that the ground for invalidity provided for in that provision applies to three-dimensional and two-dimensional marks representing three-dimensional shapes, such as, for example, the representation of a sculpture or a vase, as held by the EFTA Court, in paragraphs 110 to 115 of its judgment of 6 April 2017, Norwegian Board of Appeal for Industrial Property Rights — appeal from the municipality of Oslo (E-05/16), or, as the Court of Justice held in the judgment of 18 June 2002, Philips (C‑299/99, EU:C:2002:377).

It is unsure, however, whether such a ground of invalidity may apply to two-dimensional marks that represent two-dimensional goods, such as, for example, a pattern on a fabric or the reproduction of a painting. In that regard, it observes that it would be paradoxical not to accept such a ground for refusal of registration for such cases, in so far as there is no justification for a difference in treatment between sculpture, which is three-dimensional, and painting, which is two-dimensional.

It states that, unlike the mark at issue in the case which gave rise to the judgment of 12 June 2018, Louboutin and Christian Louboutin (C‑163/16, EU:C:2018:423), which consisted of a colour applied to the sole of a shoe, the figurative mark MANHATTAN at issue in the case pending before it is a work protected by copyright.

It queries whether the amendment of Article 7(1)(e)(iii) of Regulation No 207/2009 by Regulation No 2015/2424, under which registration is refused not only for signs which consist exclusively of ‘the shape’, but also ‘another characteristic of the goods’, which gives substantial value to it, is capable of altering the assessment to be made by virtue of that ground for invalidity. In that regard, it wishes to know whether, in the case before it, Regulation No 207/2009 or Regulation No 207/2009, as amended, taking account of the fact that the date of registration of the mark MANHATTAN, like that of the application for a declaration of invalidity and that of the judgment at first instance under appeal, is prior to 23 March 2016, the date of entry into force of Regulation 2015/2424.

 It states that, in any event and whatever the applicable version of Article 7(1)(e)(iii), if it is accepted that that provision applies to two-dimensional marks representing two-dimensional goods, the question arises as to the criteria for determining whether a sign such as that at issue in the main proceedings, may be regarded as consisting ‘exclusively of the shape which gives substantial value to the goods’ where the registration of that sign as a trade mark relates to a number of classes of goods and that the mark is designed in such a manner that it can cover the whole or substantial parts of the goods or be used as a logo.

In that regard, it points out the difficulty in assessing such a ground of invalidity, since the applicant for the trade mark is required only to indicate the goods for which it intends to use the mark and not to specify the practical conditions of use of the sign for which it seeks protection.

Thus, as the case may be, a mark may be affixed to the goods as a whole, like, for example, a furnishing fabric, paper or a tray, so that it becomes a key feature of the goods themselves and, in many of those cases, there is identity between the trade mark and the goods, or it may occupy a minor position on the goods, in particular where the mark is used as a logo.

In the light of those facts, the Svea hovrätt, Patent- och marknadsöverdomstolen (Svea Court of Appeal, Patents and Market Court of Appeal, Stockholm) decided to stay the proceedings and refer the following questions to the Court for a preliminary ruling:

‘1.  Is Article 4 of [Regulation 2015/2424] to be interpreted as meaning that Article 7(1)(e)(iii), in its new wording, is applicable to a court’s assessment of invalidity (under Article 52(1)(a) of the Trade Marks Regulation) that is made after the entry into force of the amendment, namely after 23 March 2016, even if the action concerns a declaration of invalidity where the action was brought before that date and therefore concerns a trademark registered before that date?

2. Is Article 7(1)(e)(iii) of [Regulation No 207/2009], in the version applicable, to be interpreted as meaning that its scope covers a sign which consists of the two-dimensional representation of a two-dimensional product, for example fabric decorated with the sign in question?

3.  If the answer to question 2 is in the affirmative, according to what principles is the wording ‘signs which consist exclusively of the shape (or another characteristic) which gives substantial value to the goods’ in Article 7(1)(e)(iii) of [Regulation No 207/2009, as amended,] to be interpreted, in a situation where the registration covers a wide range of classes of goods and goods and the sign may be affixed in different ways to the goods? Is the assessment to be made in accordance with more objective/general criteria, for example with the starting point of how the mark appears and how it is possible to affix it to different goods, that is to say without regard to the manner in which the trade mark proprietor may de facto have affixed or may intend to affix the sign to various goods?

The Court’s decision:

1. Article 7(1)(e)(iii) of Council Regulation (EC) No 207/2009 of 26 February 2009 on the [European Union] trademark, as amended by Regulation (EU) 2015/2424 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2015, must be interpreted as meaning that it is not applicable to marks registered before the entry into force of Regulation No 207/2009, as amended by Regulation 2015/2424.

2. Article 7(1)(e)(iii) of Regulation No 207/2009 must be interpreted as meaning that a sign such as that at issue in the main proceedings, consisting of two-dimensional decorative motifs, which are affixed to goods, such as fabric or paper, does not ‘consist exclusively of the shape’, within the meaning of that provision.

Bacardi won a case in Turkey for a trademark that has been never used there

pexels-photo-1571849Mutlu Köse published an interesting article for Marques Class 46 which discusses the court practice in Turkey regarding cases of non-use of trademarks.

The dispute at hand concerns a lawsuit initiated by Bacardi against a local beverage producer for a trademark infringement of BREEZER mark owned by the company.

The Turkey company uses similar sign FREEZER and look-alike packaging.

As a response, KIRBIYIK FREEZER started revocation proceeding against Bacardi’s BREEZER mark for lack of genuine use in the country for a period of 5 years as it is stipulated by the law.

Bacardi had never used its trademark but the reason for this was the fact that the Turkish regulations do not allow the sale of cocktail beverages containing distilled alcohols.

According to the Court, however, this represented a valid reason for non-use of the registered mark (the onliest option for overcoming such revocation apart from actual use) and dismissed the Turkish company request. At the same time, the court accepted the claims for trademark infringement and unfair competition against KIRBIYIK FREEZER.

Why SPRITE has problems with JallaXXXXXX brand in Norway?

pexels-photo-1028637.jpegTom Ekeberg (Zacco) published an interesting story for Lexology regarding a trademark dispute between Coca Cola and the Norwegian beverage producer OM, which tried to use the trademark JALLASPRITE. Coca Cola complained about such use and as a result, OM replaced its mark with JallaXXXXXX.

However, even with that outcome, Coca Cola initiated a lawsuit claiming that with XXXXXX part of the mark OM was trying to take advantages of SPRITE trademark well-known status amongst the consumers. The reason for this is the fact that according to the US company most of the consumers will understand that XXXXX is a replacement of SPRITE bearing in mind the dispute between the companies.

According to the Court’s decision, when it comes to JALLASPRITE there is no need for a temporary injunction due to the fact that OM took all necessary steps to discontinue the use of the sign at hand.

With regard to JallaXXXXXX, however, the court supports the Coca Cola’s position because OM did their best to communicate amongst Norwegian consumers that XXXXXX is a replacement of SPRITE as a consequence of the US company’s legal proceeding against them. In that way, OM tried to take unfair marketing advantages of the situation. This creates a clear connection between SPRITE and JallaXXXXXX as brands.

How online stores to communicate with their customers – the Amazon case?

ecommerce-3021581_960_720The Advocate General of the European Court G. PITRUZZELLA has given an opinion on case  C‑649/17 Bundesverband der Verbraucherzentralen und Verbraucherverbände, Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband e. V. v Amazon EU Sàrl., which concerns the following:

The Bundesverband alleges that Amazon, an online sales platform, has failed to fulfil, in a clear and comprehensible manner, its obligations regarding the provision of information to consumers and has thereby infringed the German legislation implementing Directive 2011/83.

In particular, the applicant in the main proceedings submits that Amazon does not, prior to the conclusion of (online) distance sales, inform customers of a fax number; it also requires customers to answer a series of questions, including questions concerning their identity, before displaying the telephone number of its general helpline.

The applicant in the main proceedings alleges that Amazon is thus infringing the statutory consumer protection rules in force in Germany which, in implementation of Directive 2011/83, require traders to indicate, in a clear and comprehensible manner, their geographical address and telephone number and, where appropriate, their fax number and email address, so as to enable consumers to contact them quickly and efficiently.

Amazon does offer an automated call-back facility and an online chat service, but these are not, according to the applicant in the main proceedings, sufficient to discharge its legal obligations.

Having brought proceedings before the Landgericht Köln (Regional Court, Cologne, Germany), which rejected its application on 13 October 2015, the Bundesverband brought an appeal before the Oberlandesgericht Köln (Higher Regional Court, Cologne, Germany).

By judgment of 8 July 2016, that court dismissed the appeal and upheld the judgment at first instance.

Finally, the Bundesverband brought an appeal on a point of law before the Bundesgerichtshof (Federal Court of Justice).

The Bundesgerichtshof (Federal Court of Justice), being in doubt as to the consistency with EU law of legislation such as the German legislation at issue, which requires traders to give a telephone number in every case, rather than only where available, made the reference for a preliminary ruling to the Court of Justice.

The Bundesgerichtshof (Federal Court of Justice) decided to ask the Court about the proper interpretation of the expression ‘where available’, used in Article 6(1)(c), whether the list of means of communication set out in that provision is exhaustive or not, and about the scope of the obligation of transparency incumbent on traders.

It was in that context that the Bundesgerichtshof (Federal Court of Justice) decided to stay the proceedings and to refer the following questions to the Court for a preliminary ruling:

‘(1)  May the Member States enact a provision which — like the provision in point 2 of the first sentence of Article 246a(1)(1) of the EGBGB — obliges traders when entering into distance contracts to give consumers their telephone number prior to acceptance of the contract not only where they have one available but in every case?

(2)  Does the expression “gegebenenfalls” (meaning “where available”) used in [the German language-version of] Article 6(1)(c) of Directive [2011/83] mean that traders must, if they decide to enter into distance contracts, provide information solely about the means of communication that are already actually available within their business, and that they are therefore not required to set up a new telephone or fax connection or email account?

(3)  If the second question is answered in the affirmative:

Does the expression “gegebenenfalls” (meaning “where available”) used in [the German language-version of] Article 6(1)(c) of Directive [2011/83] refer solely to the means of communication that are already available in the business and are actually used by the trader for communication with consumers when entering into distance contracts, or does it also refer to means of communication that are available in the business but have hitherto been used by the trader exclusively for other purposes, such as to communicate with other traders or authorities?

(4)  Is the list of means of communication (telephone, fax and email) set out in Article 6(1)(c) of Directive [2011/83] exhaustive, or may traders also use other means of communication not mentioned in that list, such as online chat services or call-back facilities, provided that they ensure rapid contact and efficient communication?

(5) Is it relevant to fulfilment of the obligation of transparency under Article 6(1) of Directive [2011/83] — in accordance with which traders must inform consumers in a clear and comprehensible manner of the means of communication referred to in Article 6(1)(c) of the directive — that that information is supplied quickly and efficiently?’

The Advocate’s position:

(1) Given its function of full harmonisation and in light of its literal, systematic and teleological interpretation, Directive 2011/83/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2011 on consumer rights, amending Council Directive 93/13/EEC and Directive 1999/44/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council and repealing Council Directive 85/577/EEC and Directive 97/7/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, precludes national legislation which obliges traders, when entering into distance contracts, to give consumers their telephone number prior to acceptance of the contract not only where they have such a number but in all cases.

(2) The expression ‘gegebenenfalls’ used in the German-language version of Article 6(1)(c) of Directive 2011/83 must be interpreted, literally, systematically and teleologically, as not imposing on traders any obligation, if they decide to enter into distance contracts, to set up a new telephone or fax connection or email account.

(3) The expression ‘gegebenenfalls’ used in the German-language version of Article 6(1)(c) of Directive 2011/83 must be interpreted, literally, systematically and teleologically, in the sense that only those means of communication which a trader has decided to employ in dealings with consumers when concluding distance contracts are ‘available’ within the undertaking.

(4) The list of means of communication set out in Article 6(1)(c) of Directive 2011/83 (i.e. telephone, fax and email) is not exhaustive and traders may also use other means of communication not mentioned in that list, such as online chat services or call-back facilities, provided that, whatever means of communication are employed, they actually offer consumers a choice of what means to use and ensure rapid contact and efficient communication, and provided that the information regarding those means of communication is provided in a clear and comprehensible manner.

(5)  Fulfilment of the obligation of transparency under Article 6(1) of Directive 2011/83 requires that consumers should be able to access the information regarding the means of communication which traders make available to them in a simple, efficient and relatively rapid manner.