Global Innovation Index 2019

gii_2019_1200.jpgWIPO published its Global Innovation Index for 2019. Switzerland was ranked as the most innovative nation in the world followed by Sweden and the US. The rest of the countries in the top 10 are Nederland, Finland, the UK, Singapour, Germany, Denmark, and Israel.

Bulgaria is ranked 40 which is three places behind the last year’s position. More data for the country can be found here.

More information regarding this index you can found here.

Advertisements

How important trademark disclaimers are?

midsummer-2263200_960_720.jpgThe European Court has ruled in case C‑705/17 Patent- och registreringsverket v Mats Hansson.

In nutshell, this case concerns whether disclaimers regarding the trademark scope of protection have to be taken into consideration for the purpose of trademark assessment. What exactly happened?

Swedish company Norrtelje Brenneri Aktiebolag registered in 2007 the following trademark in Class 33 of the Nice Agreement:

That registration was accompanied by a disclaimer stating that ‘registration does not give an exclusive right over the word RoslagsPunsch’. The disclaimer was required by the Swedish Patent Office as a condition of registration of the trademark because the term ‘Roslags’ refers to a region of Sweden and the term ‘Punsch’ describes one of the goods covered by the registration.

Mr Hansson, as an individual, applied in 2015 for registration of the word mark ‘ROSLAGSÖL’ in Sweden for goods in Class 32, in particular non-alcoholic beverages and beers.

The Swedish Patent Office rejected the application for registration because of the likelihood of confusion between the new application and the earlier trademark. The problem was that the term ‘Roslags’ is descriptive. The fact that both signs also included other words or figurative elements did not reduce the similarity. Moreover, the signs referred to identical or similar products which address the same customers.

Mr Hansson appealed this decision before the Patents and Market Court, arguing that there was no likelihood of confusion between the signs in question. As regards the effect of the disclaimer relating to the earlier trademark on the outcome of the action, the Patent Office argued before that court that an element of a trademark which has been excluded from protection by means of a disclaimer must in principle be regarded as not distinctive. In the present case, registration of the earlier trade mark had been granted with such a disclaimer because the trademark included a term that was descriptive of a geographical region, ‘Roslags’.

However, The Patent Office’s practice concerning the non-distinctive character of geographical names had developed in the meantime, putting into practice the conclusions in paragraphs 31 and 32 of the judgment of 4 May 1999, Windsurfing Chiemsee(C‑108/97 and C‑109/97, EU:C:1999:230). The term ‘Roslags’ was now capable of registration in itself as a trademark and was distinctive for the goods at issue in the present case so that it could even dominate the overall impression given by the earlier trade mark. It thus followed from a global assessment of the signs at issue that because of the common element ‘Roslags’ the relevant public could have the impression that the goods referred to by those signs had the same commercial origin.

The Patents and Market Court allowed Mr Hansson’s application and approved the registration of his sign as a trademark, finding that there was no likelihood of confusion. The court also stated that, despite the disclaimer, the terms to which it related had to be taken into account in the assessment of that likelihood, in so far as they could have an effect on the overall impression created by the earlier trade mark, and hence on the extent of protection of that mark. According to the court, the purpose of the disclaimer was to make it clear that the exclusive right deriving from registration of the earlier trade mark did not relate to the terms referred to as such.

The Patent Office appealed against the judgment of the court to the Svea Court of Appeal, Patents and Market Court of Appeal, Stockholm, Sweden.

That court explains that in its view Directive 2008/95 and the associated case-law confirm that the substantive rules on the protection of a national trade mark are in principle fully harmonized at the level of EU law, while the procedural rules are within the competence of the Member States. It therefore asks whether a national rule allowing a disclaimer to be made may be categorised as a procedural rule, even though it has the effect of changing the criteria on which is based the global assessment to be carried out in order to examine the likelihood of confusion within the meaning of Article 4(1)(b) of that directive.

That court is uncertain whether that provision, having regard in particular to the settled case-law of the Court according to which the assessment of the likelihood of confusion must be based on an overall impression and the perceptions of consumers play a dominant part in the global assessment of that likelihood, may be interpreted as meaning that a disclaimer can affect that assessment because an element of the earlier trade mark was, at the time of registration, expressly excluded from protection by means of that disclaimer, so that that element must be given less importance in the analysis of the overall impression than it would have had in the absence of the disclaimer.

So the Svea Court of Appeal, Patents and Market Court of Appeal decided to stay the proceedings and to refer the following questions to the Court for a preliminary ruling:

‘(1)  Must Article 4(1)(b) of [Directive 2008/95] be interpreted as meaning that the global assessment of all relevant factors which is to be made in an assessment of the likelihood of confusion may be affected by the fact that an element of the trade mark has expressly been excluded from protection on registration, that is to say, that a so-called disclaimer has been entered on registration?

(2) If the answer to the first question is in the affirmative, can the disclaimer in such a case affect the global assessment in such a way that the competent authority has regard to the element in question but gives it a more limited importance so that it is not regarded as being distinctive, even if the element would de facto be distinctive and prominent in the earlier trade mark?

(3) If the answer to the first question is in the affirmative and the answer to the second question in the negative, can the disclaimer even so affect the global assessment in any other way?’

The European Court’s decision:

Article 4(1)(b) 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 must be interpreted as precluding national legislation making provision for a disclaimer whose effect would be to exclude an element of a complex trade mark, referred to in that disclaimer, from the global analysis of the relevant factors for showing the existence of a likelihood of confusion within the meaning of that provision, or to attribute to such an element, in advance and permanently, limited importance in that analysis.

Watches can be copyrightable in Sweden

pexels-photo-280253Hans Eriksson and Petter Larsson (Westerberg & Partners Advokatbyrå Ab) published quite an interesting article for Lexology that concerns a lawsuit for copyright infringement in Sweden.

Back in 2016, a local retailer started to import watches with a minimalistic design that resembled such produced and offered by the well-known Sweden watch manufacturer Daniel Wellington.

A copyright lawsuit followed. The defendant position of the retailer was that the watch design at hand wasn’t original taking into account prior art which clearly showed a variety of other watches on the market that shared similar design characteristics.

Based on this, the first instance court dismissed the copyright infringement claim.

The decision was appealed. The Patent and Market Court of Appeal came to the conclusion that there was a copyright infringement. The reason was that the authors of Daniel Wellington’s watch had made small design choices to create the watch which was sufficient for the watch originality.

Moreover, the court addressed the defendant’s mosaic of prior art components by stating that the fact that a product consists of previously known elements does not rule out copyright protection if it displays originality when considered in its entirety.

Vita as a white trademark in The EU

blueberry-1245702_960_720.jpgThe European Court has ruled in case T‑423/18 Fissler GmbH v EUIPO which concerns whether or not words describing colors can be registered as trademarks.

The background of the case is as follow:

On 27 September 2016, the applicant, Fissler GmbH, filed an application for registration of an EU a word trade mark for VITA.

The goods in respect of which registration was sought are:

– Class 7: ‘Food processors, electric; parts and accessories for the aforesaid goods’;

– Class 11: ‘Pressure cookers, electric; parts and accessories for the aforesaid goods’;

– Class 21: ‘Household or kitchen utensils and containers; cooking pot sets; pressure cookers, non-electric; parts and accessories for the aforesaid goods’.

By decision of 28 April 2017, the examiner refused registration of the mark applied for in respect of the goods concerned on the grounds that it was descriptive and devoid of any distinctive character for the purposes of Article 7(1)(b) and (c) of Regulation No 207/2009 (now Article 7(1)(b) and (c) of Regulation 2017/1001).

On 20 June 2017, the applicant filed a notice of appeal with EUIPO.

By decision of 28 March 2018 (‘the contested decision’), the Fifth Board of Appeal of EUIPO dismissed the appeal. In the first place, as regards the relevant public, it found that the goods concerned were aimed above all at the general public, but also in part at a specialist public, for example chefs, and that the level of attention varied from average to high. It added that, as the mark applied for was a Swedish term, it was necessary to take into account the Swedish-speaking public in the European Union.

In the second place, as regards the descriptiveness of the mark applied for, the Board of Appeal, first, pointed out that the sign vita is the definite plural form of the word ‘vit’, which means ‘white’ in Swedish. Next, it found that, for the purposes of applying Article 7(1)(c) of Regulation 2017/1001, the question whether or not white was a common colour for those goods was not determinative. It was sufficient that those goods could exist in white and that the sign could be descriptive of them. After stating that the colour white was not the most common colour for ‘electronic and non-electronic’ (that is to say, electric and non-electric) pressure cookers and other household utensils, but that it was at least a fairly usual colour for those goods, it found that that showed that an average consumer would associate the goods concerned with the colour white and therefore found that the mark applied for was descriptive. Furthermore, the Board of Appeal pointed out that some kitchen utensils and household appliances are often referred to as ‘white goods’ in English and Swedish (‘vitvaror’). On the basis of an extract from the website which could be accessed via the internet address http://www.vitvara.n.nu/vad-ar-vitvaror, it deduced that some of the goods concerned, such as electric food processors or electric pressure cookers, could collectively be described as ‘white goods’. It stated that, even if that were not possible, because it is mainly large household appliances, like washing machines and dishwashers, which are described as ‘white goods’, it clearly demonstrated that the colour white was generally associated with household utensils. Lastly, it found that the mark applied for was purely descriptive.

In the third place, as regards the lack of distinctive character of the mark applied for, the Board of Appeal found that the mark applied for would be understood by the relevant public as a simple statement of fact in the sense that the goods concerned were goods that were available in white. It concluded that that mark was purely descriptive and, consequently, had no distinctive character. It took the view that any manufacturer of food processors and cooking pot sets could manufacture its goods in white and that that mark was not therefore capable of distinguishing the applicant’s goods from those of other undertakings. Furthermore, the Board of Appeal rejected the applicant’s argument that there are other registered trade marks which consist solely of colours.

The General Court annulled the EUIPO’s decision with the following arguments:

In the present case, it must be stated that the colour white does not constitute an ‘intrinsic’ characteristic which is ‘inherent to the nature’ of the goods concerned (such as food processors, electric pressure cookers and household utensils), but a purely random and incidental aspect which only some of them may have and which does not, in any event, have any direct and immediate link with their nature. Such goods are available in a multitude of colours, among them the colour white, which is not more prevalent than the others. The Board of Appeal itself acknowledges this because the website that it mentions in paragraph 23 of the contested decision states that ‘these days, [household] utensils come in all colours’.

The mere fact that the goods concerned are more or less usually available in white, among other colours, is not disputed, but is irrelevant, since it is not ‘reasonable’ to believe that for that reason alone the colour white will actually be recognised by the relevant public as a description of an intrinsic characteristic which is inherent to the nature of those goods.

Consequently, neither of the two grounds relied upon by the Board of Appeal  is sufficient to establish that there is a sufficiently direct and specific link, within the meaning of the case-law referred to in paragraph 28 above, between the term ‘vita’ in Swedish and the goods concerned. The Board of Appeal did not show that the relevant public, when faced with the mark applied for, would immediately perceive it, without further thought, as a description of those goods or of one of the intrinsic characteristics of those goods that is inherent to their nature.

Furthermore, in so far as the Board of Appeal inferred the lack of distinctive character of the mark applied for from its being understood as a simple statement of fact in the sense that the goods concerned are available in white, it must be held that the relevant Swedish-speaking public will not perceive a description of an intrinsic characteristic of the goods concerned in the mark applied for and will not be able to associate it directly with those goods. On the contrary, the term ‘vita’ requires some interpretation on the part of Swedish and Finnish consumers. Those consumers will not understand the mark applied for as a simple statement of fact according to which those goods are available in white, but rather as an indication of their origin. That is particularly so because that mark will be affixed to goods of any colour, and not only to those which are white.

The ground for refusal relied on in the present case cannot therefore preclude the mark applied for from being regarded by the relevant public as being capable of identifying the commercial origin of the goods in question and distinguishing them from those of other undertakings.

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:

Untitled.png

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.

The Black and white trademark color dominance in Sweden is over

sunnana-harbour-2914389_960_720.jpgHans Eriksson published an intriguing article for IPKat discussing the issue on color assessment of trademarks in Sweden.

Until that moment, the Swedish practice in that regard was to accept that trademarks in black and white covers all color combinations for the purpose of trademark assessment in case of disputes.

Not any more. The Swedish Patent Office and the Swedish court change that position implementing the European court decision in case C-252/12 Specsavers, according to which the registration of a trademark in black and white cannot be granted a scope of protection that automatically covers all possible color combinations.

Sweden alongside Denmark and Norway was one of the few countries in the EU which has continuously used this broader approach in color assessment of trademarks.

This change of the local practice will reflect on all future applicant who has to bear in mind that when they build their trademarks strategies for the territory of Sweden.

The full article can be found here.

EZMIX can’t be a European trademark – an EU Court decision

addtext_com_MDMxMDM1MTEzMDY

The European Court has ruled in Case T‑771/16, Toontrack Music AB v EUIPO which concerns an attempt by a Swedish company to register a European trademark ‘EZMIX’ for classes 9, 15, 42.

The Office refused this application on absolute grounds, lack of distinctiveness and descriptiveness. The grounds for this conclusion were the fact that EZ is a shortened word for Easy and MIX means mixing music.

The Court upheld this decision. The fact that easy can have different meanings is not sufficient to overcome the collision with the absolute grounds. The reason for this is that it is sufficient only one of the meaning to lack a distinctive character in light of the relevant goods or services so as the sign to be refused.