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.

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EU trademarks in case of a hard Brexit – clarifications

brexit-4011711_960_720.jpgThe UK Patent Office published some clarifications what would happen with all European trademarks in case of a hard Brexit without a deal with the EU.

In that case, The UK will recognize all registered EU trademarks and will transform them into national trademarks. They will be indicated with UK009 in front of their EU numbers.

There will be no cost for the relevant owners and as little administrative burden as possible. However, the Patent Office will not issue trademark certifications for them. Information for these marks will be available in the UK trademark database.

When it comes to EU applications for trademarks, their owners will have up to 9 months to file identical applications in The UK. In that scenario, they will use the same priority date from their EU applications.

The full text can be found here.

Marry Me – not in the EU

heart-3698156_960_720.jpgThe General Court of the European Union has recently ruled on a case where the Swiss tech company Marry Me Group tried to register two European trademarks – a work mark MARRY ME and the following figurative sign:

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The trademarks were been applied for the following Nice classes:

9 Communication software; Mobile software; Application software for social networking services via the Internet.

38 Providing access to forums (chat rooms) for social networks; Electronic transmission of messages; Providing online chat rooms for the transmission of messages, comments and multimedia content among users; Online conferencing of greeting cards; Providing access to forums [chat rooms] for public networks.

45 Matching services provided through social networking; Meeting, dating and personal presentation services via the Internet; Personal computer related services.

EUIPO refused to register both of them based on absolute grounds – lack of distinctiveness and descriptiveness. According to the Office MARRY ME can be directly perceived by consumers as a dating service. In regard to the figurative mark, the presence of graphical elements in combination with the word part is not enough to overcome the descriptiveness because of the shape of hearts that plays the opposite effect, it emphasizes, even more, the meaning of the phrase.

Marry Me Group argued that they already had received registration for their trademarks in Germany. However, that was to no avail. EUIPO stressed that when it comes to European trademarks their meaning has to be assessed on every language in the EU. From that perspective, all English speaking consumers will get immediately the meaning of the phrase as it is stated. So the signs will be descriptive.

The Court upheld this decision which is a good example of the practice where undistinctive signs are registered in combination with graphics or other words. Although this is possible, it has to be taken into account the fact that those graphics and words have to be distinctive enough and definitely not to support the meaning of the descriptive parts of the relevant trademark.

Source: WIPR.

Apple lost a lawsuit against Pear in the EU

fruit-2637058_960_720.jpgApple Inc. lost an interesting lawsuit before the General Court of the European Union regarding its famous trademark logo. The case at hand concerns an attempt by the Chinese company Pear Technologies Ltd to register the following European trademark:

download.pngFor classes of goods and services:

 Class 9: ‘Personal computers; laptop computers; handset and tablet mobile digital electronic devices for the sending and receiving of telephone calls and/or any digital data and for use as a handheld computer; apparatus for recording, transmission or reproduction of sound or images; videophones, video-tablets, pre-recorded computer programs for personal information management, database management software, electronic mail and messaging software, paging software, computer hardware, software and firmware, namely operating system programs, application development computer software programs for personal and handheld computers or handheld mobile digital electronic devices; computer, handheld and mobile handset device peripherals products; parts, fittings and accessories for all the aforesaid goods’;

Class 35: ‘Providing consultancy on digital marketing; providing CRM solution and business solution design services’;

Class 42: ‘Maintenance and updating of computer software; providing information concerning computer software via the internet and other computer and electronic communication networks; computer network services; providing consultancy on networking, webpage design; providing server hosting services; providing domain management services; provision of software applications for handheld, tablets, personal computer and laptop computer devices and data centre management; technical consultancy; all aforesaid services also as business to business and all aforesaid services also as business to consumer or consumers’.

Against this application an opposition was filed by Apple on the ground of its following earlier figurative trademark:

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For classes of goods and services:

Class 9: ‘… Computers, tablet computers, computer terminals, computer peripheral devices; computer hardware; … digital music and/or video players; MP3 and other digital format audio players; … handheld and mobile digital electronic devices for the sending and receiving of telephone calls; … computer software for use in connection with online music subscription service, software that enables users to play and program music and entertainment-related audio, video, text and multi-media content, software featuring musical sound recordings, entertainment-related audio, video, text and multi-media content, computer software and firmware for operating system programs, data synchronization programs, and application development tool programs for personal and handheld computers; … computer hardware and software for providing integrated telephone communication with computerised global information networks; electronic handheld devices for the wireless receipt, storage and/or transmission of data and messages, and electronic devices that enable the user to keep track of or manage personal information; software for the redirection of messages, Internet e-mail, and/or other data to one or more electronic handheld devices from a data store on or associated with a personal computer or a server …’;

Class 35: ‘… Retail store and online store services in the field of entertainment featuring music, video, … musical works, pre-recorded audio and audio-visual works and related merchandise, and music related electronic products, via the Internet and other computer, electronic and communications networks …’;

Class 42: ‘… Application service provider (ASP) services featuring software for use in connection with online music subscription service, software that enables users to play and program music and entertainment-related audio, video, text and multimedia content, and software featuring musical sound recordings, entertainment-related audio, video, text and multimedia content; providing temporary internet access to use on-line non-downloadable software to enable users to program, audio, video, text and other multimedia content, including music, concerts, videos, radio, television, news, sports, games, cultural events, and entertainment-related programs …’

Initially, the EUIPO upheld the opposition, the main argument for which was the proved reputation of Apple’s trademark among the consumers in the EU.

In the appeal, however, The General Court annulled this decision stating that EUIPO erred in its assessment. The reasons for this conclusion were that even though Apple’s sign has a reputation, which broadens its protection scope, this can be an argument only in a case that both trademarks are phonetically, visually and conceptually similar.  In the case at hand, this is not true.

  In that regard, it should be noted, first, that it is admittedly true that each of the conflicting marks may be described as using the image of a fruit. However, as all the parties to this action also argue, the mere fact that there is a generic term which includes the terms used to describe the semantic content of the marks at issue is not a relevant factor in the context of the conceptual comparison. In the same vein, it should be borne in mind that the examination of the similarity takes into consideration the conflicting marks as they have been registered or as they have been applied for. Accordingly, it should be observed that the conflicting marks evoke the concept of ‘fruit’ only in an indirect manner. It follows from the considerations set out in paragraphs 62 and 63 above that the conflicting marks will not be perceived as depicting two unidentifiable fruits, but rather as (i) an apple with a bite taken out of it, possessing a leaf, and (ii) a pear with a stem. In those circumstances, it is inconceivable that the relevant public displaying a high level of attention will use the term ‘fruit’ instead of ‘pear’ or ‘apple’ when referring to the conflicting marks.

  Next, it should be borne in mind that, according to the case-law cited in paragraphs 22 and 61 above, the comparison of the conflicting marks must be based on the overall impression given by them, by reference to the intrinsic qualities of those marks, and, moreover, conceptual similarity arises from the fact that both marks use images with a similar semantic content. These considerations counter the taking into account of factors such as those mentioned in paragraph 32 of the contested decision, which are not based on the perception of the semantic content of the images used by the conflicting marks, as they have been registered or as they have been applied for, but which are distant from the actual depiction of them. The protection which is granted to an earlier figurative mark does not apply, in the absence of commonalities with the depiction of the mark cited in opposition, to the general category of phenomena that it depicts. The Board of Appeal was therefore wrong to take the view that the marks at issue could be regarded as being conceptually similar on the sole ground that the fruits which they depicted shared several characteristics in real life.

Case T‑215/17, Pear Technologies Ltd v European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO)

The Polo/Lauren Company won a case in The EU regarding its famous logo

polo-1039337_960_720.jpgThe Board of Appeal of the EUIPO has ruled in case R 1272/2018-5 STYLE & TASTE, S.L. v The Polo/Lauren Company L.P., which concerns an invalidation procedure against the following European trademark registered in 2005 for classes 9, 20, 24 and 25:

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The ground for this invalidation is the following earlier registered Spanish industrial designs:

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The EUIPO dismissed the request because:

  • by not submitting the translation of the registered certificate for the earlier Spanish industrial design, the cancellation applicant did not prove the validity and scope of protection of this earlier right,
  • mere reference to national law would not be considered sufficient, and
  • the cancellation applicant did not submit the necessary national legislation in force and did not put forward a cogent line of argument as to why it would succeed under the specific national law in preventing the use of the contested EUTM.

The decision was appealed.

According to the the Board of Appeal, the applicant failed to prove its rights and to submit the necessary argumentation in order to invalidate the trademark at hand. What’s more, after some inspection, it is turned out that the aforementioned designs are not valid anymore due to a lack of renewal.

This case comes to show how essential is the good preparation and implementation for initiating such procedures before the Patent Offices around the world.

Source: IPKat.

Beats Electronics won a trademark case in the EU

pexels-photo-577769.jpegThe Board of Appeal of the EUIPO has ruled in a case regarding an application for the following European trademark applied for classes 9 (apparatus for recording, transmission or reproduction of sound or images), 35 (business management, business administration, market research services, export services), and 38 (telecommunication services, in particular mobile telephony, broadcasting of radio and television programmes):

beats1

Against this application, an opposition was filed by Beats Electronics based on the following earlier European trademarks for classes 9 (audio and video equipment including audio players, video players, media players, portable media players), 38 (providing online bulletin boards in the fields of media, music, video, film, book and television for the transmission of messages among users), and 41 (nightclub services, dance club services, provision of live entertainment and recorded entertainment) of the Nice Classification. EUTM 2 was for the same goods and services, with the addition of Class 42 (providing an interactive online network website, via electronic communication networks):

Initially, the EUIPO’s Opposition Division dismissed the opposition stating that there is no possibility for consumer confusion concerning both signs despite the identical and similar goods. The claim for trademarks with reputation by Beats Electronics was dismissed as not proved.

The decision was appealed and the Board of Appeal reversed it finding that the Opposition Division erred in its conclusions.

According to the the Board, both trademarks are similar and can create confusion amongst the consumers. The arguments behind this position were that both signs have similar visual elements as well as colors. The differences are not enough to overcome similarities. What’s more the earlier marks have a reputation on the market which was proved by the owner.

Source: Nedim Malovic, IPKat.

Extracts from TMView can be used in EUIPO proceedings

flag-2608475_960_720The General Court of the European Union has ruled in Case T-848/16 Deichmann v EUIPO – Vans (V). According to its decision, extracts from TMview are acceptable evidence in proceedings before EUIPO in order to prove registered rights over trademarks.

As it is well-known, TMView is a database that gives access not only to European trademarks but to national once from the relevant participating Patent Offices.

The General Court’s position is that such extracts from this database can represent a copy of trademark registration certificate if they contain all relevant information. The onliest requirement here is that if the list of goods or services contained in the TMview extract is not in the language of the proceedings, the excerpt must be submitted together with a translation of that list.

For more Information here.