The International Olympic Committee succeeded in a dispute in Germany on a trademark associating with the Olympic Games.
The case at hand regards the following German trademark application for classes 28, 35 and 41:
The German Patent and Trademark Office refused this trademark based on the German Law on the Protection of the Olympic Emblem and Designations (OlympSchG). According to this law, any use of “Olympiade”, “Olympia”, “olympisch” or similar is prohibited if it is not authorized by the the National Olympic Committee for Germany or the International Olympic Committee.
The decision was appealed and overturned. Because of this The International Olympic Committee intervened filing an opposition against this mark based on early registered mark for OLYMPIC.
This time, however, the Patent Office didn’t find similarity between the signs dismissing the opposition. In the appeal the German Federal Patent Court upheld this decision as valid.
Another appeal followed and the German Federal Supreme Court overturned the decision entirely. According to the court, the opposition was admissible. The fact that special legislation protects the Olympic Games symbols and signs doesn’t mean that they cannot be protected by the trademark law too.
When comparing the signs, the Court found enough similarities in order to upheld the opposition. The figurative element in the mark applied for would be perceived as an indication for the Olympic fire. In addition the lower court didn’t take into consideration the enormous reputation the earlier mark possesses. What’s more the first element of the mark RETRO has descriptive character.
The case has now been referred back to the German Federal Patent Court for new decision.