Australia joins TMView

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EUIPO reports about the accession of Australia to the global trademark database TMView. In this way 1.6 million Australian trademarks will be added to the database, which will give access to almost 60 million marks from around the world.

For more information here. 

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NBA, tattoos, video game avatars and copyright issues

photo-1478317370563-0a8fc17e6837The US District Court for the Southern District of New York has ruled in an interesting lawsuit which regards the question to what extent the likeness of people with tattoos can be used for creation of avatars for video games.

In the case at hand, the likenesses of three NBA players, Eric Bledsoe, LeBron James, and Kenyon Martin, were used for avatars in a basketball video game.

The copyright holder of the tattoos Solid Oak considered this as illegal because there was no a license for the use of the tattoos in the video game.

The court disagreed. The main arguments for this conclusion were:

  • Solid Oak acquired the copyrights over the tattoos after they were put on the basketball players not before that.
  • According to the US law, de minimis copyright infringements are not actionable. In this case, the tattoos are visible in the game only up to 11% of their real life size. Moreover, in most of the time they are not recognizable.
  • According to the court, there were implied non-exclusive licences between the tattoo artists and the three basketball players. With these licenses the players were been given the right to use the tattoos as part of their own likenesses in public places, for commercial purposes etc.
  • There were no limitations by the tattoos artist on how the tattoos to be used in the future.

Source: IPKat.

“BVLGARI” is not equal to Bulgaria under some circumstances

perfume-2142824_1920The the Swiss Federal Administrative Court has rules in a case that regards two Swiss trademark applications for “BVLGARI VAULT” (for classes 9, 38 and 42) and “BVLGARI” (for classes 36 and 43).

The Swiss Patent Office refused both of them based on absolute grounds – indication of geographical origin. The reason is that BVLGARI was almost identical with the French word “Bulgarie” which is the name of the country Bulgaria.

The decision was appealed.

According to the Court, these signs although an indication of a geographical place, the name of a country, can be registered as trademarks. The argument for this was the Supreme court’s practice which allows such registration in case that the sign has acquired secondary meaning.

The Court considered that this is the case with both applications. Due to the long market presence consumers are able to recognize BVLGARI for different goods such as soaps; perfumery, essential oils, cosmetic products, hair lotions”, “sunglasses”, “jewelry, watches etc. What’s more the Court allowed both trademarks for other goods and services in classes 9, 38, 42 and 43 because it was typical companies nowadays to use their marks for related trade, production and marketing activities.

Source:  Markus Frick и  Benno Fischer-Siddiqui Walder Wyss, Lexology

Breaking news – Amazon repelled an attack by Coty after an EU Court decision

photo-1522780550166-284a0288c8dfThe European court has ruled in the case C‑567/18 Coty Germany GmbH  v Amazon. The case concerns the following background:

Coty, a distributor of perfumes, holds a licence for the EU trade mark DAVIDOFF registered under No 876 874 (‘the mark at issue’), which enjoys protection for ‘perfumes, essential oils, cosmetics’.

Amazon Services Europe enables third-party sellers to place offers for sale in respect of their goods in the ‘Amazon-Marketplace’ section of the website http://www.amazon.de. In the event of sale, contracts concerning those goods are concluded between the third-party sellers and the purchasers. Those third-party sellers may also avail themselves of the ‘Fulfilment by Amazon’ scheme, under which goods are stored by Amazon group companies, including Amazon FC Graben, which operates a warehouse. Those goods are dispatched by external service providers.

On 8 May 2014 one of Coty’s test purchasers ordered on the website http://www.amazon.de a bottle of ‘Davidoff Hot Water EdT 60 ml’ perfume that was offered for sale by a third-party seller (‘the seller’) and dispatched by the Amazon group under that scheme. After Coty sent a letter of formal notice to the seller on the ground that the rights conferred by the mark at issue were not exhausted in respect of the goods consigned by the seller to Amazon FC Graben under that scheme, those goods not having been put on the market in the European Union under that trade mark by the proprietor or with its consent, the seller signed a cease-and-desist declaration, coupled with a penalty clause.

By letter of 2 June 2014, Coty requested Amazon Services Europe to return all the bottles of perfume bearing the mark at issue stocked on behalf of the seller. Amazon Services Europe sent Coty a package containing 30 bottles of perfume. After another company belonging to the Amazon group informed Coty that 11 out of the 30 bottles sent originated from another seller’s stock, Coty requested that Amazon Services Europe disclose the name and address of that other seller, as the rights conferred on 29 out of the 30 bottles by the mark at issue had not been exhausted. Amazon Services Europe replied that it was not in a position to accede to that request.

Taking the view that Amazon Services Europe’s conduct, on the one hand, and that of Amazon FC Graben, on the other, infringed its rights in the mark at issue, Coty requested, in essence, that those two companies be ordered, subject to penalties, to desist, in the course of trade, from stocking or dispatching ‘Davidoff Hot Water’ brand perfumes in Germany, or from causing them to be stocked or dispatched, if those goods were not put on the Union market with Coty’s consent. It requested, in the alternative, that the same order be made against those companies in relation to ‘Davidoff Hot Water EdT 60 ml’ brand perfumes and, in the further alternative, that the same order be made against them in relation to ‘Davidoff Hot Water EdT 60 ml’ brand perfumes which have been stored on behalf of the seller or which cannot be attributed to another seller.

The Regional Court, Germany dismissed the action brought by Coty. The appeal brought by Coty was dismissed, with the court of appeal holding, inter alia, that Amazon Services Europe had neither stocked nor dispatched the goods concerned and that Amazon FC Graben had kept those goods on behalf of the seller and other third-party sellers.

Coty brought an appeal on a point of law (Revision) before the referring court. Only Amazon Services Europe and Amazon FC Graben are respondents before that court.

The referring court states that whether that appeal is successful, in so far as Coty disputes the court of appeal’s finding that Amazon FC Graben is not liable as a perpetrator of an infringement of trade mark rights, depends on the interpretation to be given to Article 9(2)(b) of Regulation No 207/2009 and Article 9(3)(b) of Regulation 2017/1001.

In particular, it emphasises that whether the appeal on a point of law is successful depends on whether those provisions are to be interpreted as meaning that a person who, on behalf of a third party, stores goods which infringe trade mark rights, without having knowledge of that infringement, stocks those goods in order to offer them or put them on the market for the purposes of those provisions, even if it is only the third party who intends to offer those goods or put them on the market.

The referring court also states that, since Coty bases one of its claims on the risk of a repeat infringement, its action is well founded only if the conduct of the Amazon group companies in question is established to be unlawful both at the material time in the main proceedings and when the decision on the appeal on a point of law is issued.

In those circumstances, the Bundesgerichtshof (Federal Court of Justice, Germany) decided to stay the proceedings and to refer the following question to the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling:

‘Does a person who, on behalf of a third party, stores goods which infringe trade mark rights, without having knowledge of that infringement, stock those goods for the purpose of offering them or putting them on the market, if it is not that person himself but rather the third party alone which intends to offer the goods or put them on the market?’

The Court’s decision:

Article 9(2)(b) of Council Regulation (EC) No 207/2009 of 26 February 2009 on the [European Union] trade mark and Article 9(3)(b) of Regulation (EU) 2017/1001 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 June 2017 on the European Union trade mark must be interpreted as meaning that a person who, on behalf of a third party, stores goods which infringe trade mark rights, without being aware of that infringement, must be regarded as not stocking those goods in order to offer them or put them on the market for the purposes of those provisions, if that person does not itself pursue those aims.

Turkish cheese sticks cannot be a 3D trademark in the EU

music-1262026_960_720The General Court of the European Union has ruled in case T‑572/19,  Muratbey Gida Sanayi ve Ticaret AŞ v EUIPO. It concerns an attempt for registration of the following EU 3D trademark for the shape of cheese sticks in class 29 – milk products:

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The EUIPO refused the registration with the argument that it is not distinctive. The Turkish applicant claimed that the shape was novel, original and unique, offered in the market for the first time by him. Because of this the company won a World Dairy Innovation Award 2018.

The Court disagreed. Novelty and originality are not criteria for assessment of the distinctive character of a sign. The award could be a factor but only if it was based on a consumer perception.

According to the Court, other producers were offering similar products too because of which the shape of this cheese is not distinctive enough to be registered as a trademark.

Source: WIPR.

Trademark owners can seek compensations even for cancelled marks

judge-1587300_960_720The European Court has ruled in case C‑622/18 AR v Cooper International Spirits LLC, St Dalfour SAS, Établissements Gabriel Boudier SA. The case concerns the following background:

The appellant in the main proceedings markets alcohol and spirits.

On 5 December 2005, he filed an application for registration of the semi-figurative trade mark SAINT GERMAIN with the National Institute of Industrial Property, France.

That mark was registered on 12 May 2006 under No 3 395 502 for goods and services in Classes 30, 32 and 33 corresponding in particular to alcoholic beverages (except beers), ciders, digestives, wines and spirits, as well as alcoholic extracts and essences.

On 8 June 2012, having learnt that Cooper International Spirits was distributing under the name ‘St-Germain’ a liqueur manufactured by St Dalfour and Établissements Gabriel Boudier, the appellant in the main proceedings brought proceedings against those three companies before the Regional Court, Paris, France) for trade mark infringement by reproduction or, in the alternative, by imitation.

In parallel proceedings, by judgment of 28 February 2013, the Regional Court, Nanterre, France revoked the appellant in the main proceedings’ trade mark SAINT GERMAIN with effect from 13 May 2011. That judgment was upheld by judgment of the Court of Appeal, Versailles, France of 11 February 2014, which has become irrevocable.

Before the Regional Court, Paris the appellant in the main proceedings maintained his claims alleging infringement for the period prior to the revocation which was not time-barred, that is to say, from 8 June 2009 to 13 May 2011.

Those claims were dismissed in their entirety by judgment of the Regional Court, Paris of 16 January 2015, on the ground that the trade mark in question had not been used since it had been filed.

That judgment was upheld by judgment of the Court of Appeal, Paris, France) of 13 September 2016.

As grounds for that judgment, the Court of Appeal, Paris found, inter alia, that the evidence relied on by the appellant in the main proceedings was not sufficient to demonstrate that the mark SAINT GERMAIN had actually been used.

The Court of Appeal, Paris concluded that the appellant in the main proceedings could not successfully argue that the trade mark’s function as a guarantee of origin had been adversely affected, or that the monopoly on use conferred by his mark had been adversely affected, or indeed that its investment function had been adversely affected, since the use of a sign identical with the trade mark by a competitor is not such, failing any use of that mark, as to impede its use substantially.

The appellant in the main proceedings brought an appeal in cassation against that judgment, on the ground that the Court of Appeal, Paris had infringed Articles L 713‑3 and L 714‑5 of the Intellectual Property Code.

In support of that appeal, he submits that all his claims alleging infringement were incorrectly dismissed on the ground that he had not demonstrated that the mark SAINT GERMAIN had actually been used, even though neither EU law nor the Intellectual Property Code provides that, during the five-year period following registration of a trade mark, the proprietor of that mark must prove that the mark has been used in order to benefit from trade mark protection. Moreover, as regards infringement, the likelihood of confusion on the part of the public must be assessed in the abstract, in the light of the subject matter of the registration, and not in relation to a specific situation on the market.

Conversely, the respondents in the main proceedings contend that a trade mark performs its essential function only if it is actually used by its proprietor to indicate the commercial origin of the goods or services designated in its registration and that, if the trade mark is not used in accordance with its essential function, the proprietor cannot complain of any adverse effect on that function or a risk of its being adversely affected.

The Court of Cassation, France states, as a preliminary point, that the appeal in cassation before it does not take issue with the fact that the Court of Appeal, Paris examined the infringement not in the light of the reproduction of the mark but of its imitation, which presupposes that there is a likelihood of confusion on the part of the public. It points out that, under national law, the court hearing the case on the merits has sole jurisdiction to assess whether there is such a likelihood of confusion and the Court of Cassation, for its part, has jurisdiction only to assess whether the judgment under appeal correctly applies the law applicable.

It observes that, with regard to infringement by imitation, the Court has held that use of a sign which is identical or similar to the trade mark which gives rise to a likelihood of confusion on the part of the public affects or is liable to affect the essential function of the mark (judgment of 12 June 2008, O2 Holdings and O2 (UK), C‑533/06, EU:C:2008:339, paragraph 59), and that, although a trade mark’s function of indicating origin is not the only function of the mark that is worthy of protection against injury by third parties (judgment of 22 September 2011, Interflora and Interflora British Unit, C‑323/09, EU:C:2011:604, paragraph 39), the protection conferred against infringement by reproduction, in so far as it is absolute and reserved for injury caused not only to the mark’s essential function, but also to other functions, in particular those of communication, investment or advertising, is broader than the protection provided against infringement by imitation, the application of which requires proof of a likelihood of confusion and, accordingly, the possibility that the essential function of the mark may be affected (judgment of 18 June 2009, L’Oréal and Others, C‑487/07, EU:C:2009:378, paragraphs 58 and 59).

The Court of Cassation also stated that the Court has held that a trade mark is always supposed to fulfil its function of indicating origin, whereas it performs its other functions only in so far as its proprietor uses it to that end, in particular for the purposes of advertising or investment (judgment of 22 September 2011, Interflora and Interflora British Unit, C‑323/09, EU:C:2011:604, paragraph 40).

It adds that, in the light of that case-law, it would appear that, since the present case turns on whether or not there is infringement by imitation, all that needs to be examined is the alleged adverse effect on the essential function of the mark, resulting from a likelihood of confusion.

In that regard, it points out that, in the judgment of 21 December 2016, Länsförsäkringar (C‑654/15, EU:C:2016:998), the Court held that Article 15(1) and Article 51(1)(a) of Regulation No 207/2009 confer on the proprietor of the trade mark a grace period within which to begin to make genuine use of his or her mark, during which he or she may rely on the exclusive rights which the mark confers, pursuant to Article 9(1) of the regulation, in respect of all the goods and services, without having to demonstrate such use. That means that, during that period, the extent of the right conferred on the proprietor of the trade mark must be assessed by reference to the goods and services covered by the registration of the mark, not on the basis of the use which the proprietor was able to make of that mark during that period.

The Court of Cassation points out, however, that the case in the main proceedings differs from the case that gave rise to the judgment of 21 December 2016, Länsförsäkringar (C‑654/15, EU:C:2016:998), in that, in the present case, the trade mark proprietor’s rights were revoked as a result of the lack of use of that mark during the five-year period following registration of that mark.

The question then arises as to whether the proprietor of a trade mark who has never used it and whose rights in it have been revoked on expiry of the five-year period laid down in the first subparagraph of Article 10(1) of Directive 2008/95 may claim that the essential function of his or her trade mark has been affected and, consequently, seek compensation for injury as a result of the alleged use by a third party of an identical or similar sign during the five-year period following registration of the mark.

In those circumstances, the Court of Cassation decided to stay proceedings and to refer the following question to the Court:

‘Must Article 5(1)(b) and Articles 10 and 12 of Directive [2008/95] be interpreted as meaning that a proprietor who has never [used his or her] trade mark and whose rights in it were revoked on expiry of the period of five years following publication of its registration can obtain compensation for injury caused by infringement, claiming an adverse effect on the essential function of [his or her] trade mark, caused by use by a third party, before the date on which the revocation took effect, of a sign similar to that trade mark to designate goods or services identical or similar to those for which that trade mark was registered?’

The Court’s decision:

Article 5(1)(b), the first subparagraph of Article 10(1) and the first subparagraph of Article 12(1) of Directive 2008/95/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 October 2008 to approximate the laws of the Member States relating to trade marks, read in conjunction with recital 6 thereof, must be interpreted as leaving Member States the option of allowing the proprietor of a trade mark whose rights in that mark have been revoked on expiry of the five-year period from its registration because he or she failed to make genuine use of the mark in the Member State concerned in connection with the goods or services for which it was registered to retain the right to claim compensation for the injury sustained as a result of the use by a third party, before the date on which the revocation took effect, of a similar sign in connection with identical or similar goods or services that is liable to be confused with his or her trade mark.