Russia allows registration of geographical indications

matryoshka-970943_960_720Russia will allow registration of geographical indications after 27.07.2020. Until now this was possible only for the so-called appellations-of-origin which protection, however, has more requirements.

Now another type of geographical indications will be allowed for registration in the country with fewer requirements for protection.

For example, while in the case of appellations-of-origin all row-materials and production have to be done in the relevant geographical area, with the geographical indication it is enough at least one of the production phases to be in the geographical place.

For more information here.

Source: CMS Russia for Lexology.

When 3D trademarks obtain a technical result – a decision by the EU Court

photo-1575505586569-646b2ca898fcThe European Court has ruled in the case C‑237/19 Gömböc Kutató, Szolgáltató és Kereskedelmi Kft. v Szellemi Tulajdon Nemzeti Hivatala.

This dispute concerns the following:

On 5 February 2015, Gömböc Kft. applied for registration of a three-dimensional sign as a trade mark in respect of goods consisting of ‘decorative items’ in Class 14  ‘decorative crystalware and chinaware’ and ‘toys’ in Classes 21 and 28 of that agreement, respectively. The sign was represented as follows:

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The Office rejected that application on the basis of the second and third indents of Article 2(2)(b) of the Law on Trade Marks. According to the Office, the sign for which registration is sought represents a homogenous object with two symmetry planes perpendicular to one another and consisting of seven smooth sides and edges separating those sides. That object is the product of Gömböc, the applicant in the main proceedings, namely a convex monostatic object made from homogeneous material, which has a single point of stable equilibrium and a single point of unstable equilibrium, that is to say, two points of equilibrium in total, the shape of which itself ensures that the object always returns to its position of balance. The Office found that the sign for which registration is sought represents a three-dimensional object which, due to its external design and the homogeneous material used, always returns to its position of balance, and that the shape of the object serves, overall, to achieve its technical objective of always righting itself.

When assessing the registrability of the sign at issue, the Office relied, in particular, on the knowledge of the characteristics and the function of the shape of that product that the average consumer was able to obtain from the applicant in the main proceedings’ website and from the considerable publicity the product had enjoyed in the press.

In the first place, the Office found, in essence, that, as regards the ‘toys’ in Class 28 of the Nice Agreement, the three-dimensional shape of the object allowed it to function as a toy whose principal feature is that it always returns to its point of stable equilibrium. Accordingly, all the elements of the sign at issue were designed in order to obtain that technical result, that is to say, they serve a technical function. The informed and reasonable consumer will therefore perceive the sign at issue as a shape necessary to obtain the technical result sought by the object that that sign represents.

In the second place, as regards the ‘decorative items’ in Classes 14 and 21 of the Nice Agreement, the Office stated that the three-dimensional shape represented in the sign at issue embodied a striking and attractive shape, which is an essential element in the marketing of the goods in question. Consumers buy decorative items mainly for their special shape. In principle, under trade mark law, three-dimensional decorative items cannot be denied protection, but where it is the striking style of such objects which determines their formal appearance, the value of the product resides in that shape.

Since the actions brought by Gömböc Kft. against the Office’s decision were dismissed at first and second instance, that company brought an appeal seeking a review of that decision before the referring court.

That court states, first, that, as regards the registration of the three-dimensional sign in relation to goods consisting of ‘toys’ in Class 28 of the Nice Agreement, the product the graphic representation of which is reproduced in paragraph 10 above is formed exclusively of the shape necessary to obtain the technical result sought. It notes that it is not possible to ascertain that result from that graphic representation alone, but that, as a result of the sign at issue, it is possible to recognise the product of the applicant in the main proceedings, Gömböc, and that, given the publicity which that product has enjoyed, the relevant public knows that the special shape and the homogenous structure of the product mean that it will always return to a position of balance.

Since the relevant case-law of the Court of Justice, in particular the judgments of 18 September 2014, Hauck (C‑205/13, EU:C:2014:2233) and of 10 November 2016, Simba Toys v EUIPO (C‑30/15 P, EU:C:2016:849), has failed to remove all doubt on the matter, the referring court is uncertain how it should assess, in connection with the application of the ground for refusing to register a sign as a trade mark or declaring a registered sign invalid provided for in Article 3(1)(e)(ii) of Directive 2008/95, whether that sign consists of the shape of the product which is necessary to obtain a technical result.

The referring court is uncertain, in particular, whether such an assessment must be based only on the graphic representation in the application for registration of the sign, or if the perception of the relevant public may also be taken into consideration in that regard in a situation where the product in question has become very well known and where, even though the product represented graphically consists exclusively of the shape necessary to obtain the technical result sought, that technical result cannot be ascertained from the graphic representation of the shape of the product in the application for registration alone, but requires knowledge of additional information on the product itself. That court notes, in addition, that the three-dimensional shape depicted in the sign at issue is shown from only one angle, with the result that that shape is not fully visible.

Second, in so far as concerns the ‘decorative items’ in Classes 14 and 21 of the Nice Agreement, the referring court is uncertain whether, in the case of a sign consisting exclusively of the shape of the goods, the ground for refusal or invalidity provided for in Article 3(1)(e)(iii) of Directive 2008/95 can be applied if it is only on the basis of the relevant public’s knowledge that it can be established that the shape gives the goods substantial value. In the present case, that knowledge relates to the fact that the product depicted in the sign at issue has become the tangible symbol of a mathematical discovery which addresses questions raised in the history of science.

Third, the referring court notes that the three-dimensional shape represented by the sign at issue already enjoys the protection conferred on designs. It observes that that type of protection may be afforded to products the appearance of which, in addition to meeting other requirements, has individual character. In the case of ‘decorative items’, the particular shape created by their designer, as an aesthetic feature, gives substantial value to the product.

Accordingly, the referring court is uncertain whether, in connection with the application of the ground for refusal or invalidity provided for in Article 3(1)(e)(iii) of Directive 2008/95, where the sole function of a product is to be decorative (decorative items), the shape of that product, which already enjoys the protection conferred on designs, is automatically excluded from the protection afforded by trade mark law. Moreover, the referring court seeks clarification as to whether that ground for refusal or invalidity can be applied to a product the three-dimensional shape of which fulfils purely a decorative function, only the aesthetic appearance of the product being relevant, with the result that, as regards decorative items, three-dimensional shapes for which protection is thus requested must necessarily be refused such protection.

In those circumstances, the Supreme Court, Hungary decided to stay the proceedings and to refer the following questions to the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling:

‘(1) Must Article 3(1)[(e)(ii)] of [Directive 2008/95], in the case of a sign consisting exclusively of the shape of the product, be interpreted as meaning that

(a)   it is on the basis of the graphic representation contained in the register alone that it may be determined whether the shape is necessary to obtain the technical result sought, or

(b)  may the perception of the relevant public also be taken into account?

In other words, is it permissible to take into account the fact that the relevant public is aware that the shape for which registration is sought is necessary in order to obtain the technical result sought?

(2) Must Article 3(1)[(e)(iii)] of [Directive 2008/95] be interpreted as meaning that that ground for refusal is applicable to a sign that consists exclusively of the shape of the product where it is [only] by taking into account the perception or knowledge of the buyer as regards the product that is graphically represented that it is possible to establish that the shape gives substantial value to the product?

(3) Must Article 3(1)[(e)(iii)] of [Directive 2008/95] be interpreted as meaning that that ground for refusal is applicable to a sign, consisting exclusively of the shape of a product

(a) which, by virtue of its individual character, already enjoys the protection conferred on designs, or

(b)  the aesthetic appearance of which gives the product a certain value?’

The Court’s decision:

1. Article 3(1)(e)(ii) 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 meaning that, in order to establish whether a sign consists exclusively of the shape of goods which is necessary to obtain a technical result, assessment does not have to be limited to the graphic representation of that sign. Information other than that relating to the graphic representation alone, such as the perception of the relevant public, may be used in order to identify the essential characteristics of the sign at issue. However, while information which is not apparent from the graphic representation of the sign may be taken into consideration in order to establish whether those characteristics perform a technical function of the goods in question, such information must originate from objective and reliable sources and may not include the perception of the relevant public.

2. Article 3(1)(e)(iii) of Directive 2008/95 must be interpreted as meaning that the perception or knowledge of the relevant public as regards the product represented graphically by a sign that consists exclusively of the shape of that product may be taken into consideration in order to identify an essential characteristic of that shape. The ground for refusal set out in that provision may be applied if it is apparent from objective and reliable evidence that the consumer’s decision to purchase the product in question is to a large extent determined by that characteristic.

3. Article 3(1)(e)(iii) of Directive 2008/95 must be interpreted as meaning that the ground for refusal of registration provided for in that provision must not be applied systematically to a sign which consists exclusively of the shape of the goods where that sign enjoys protection under the law relating to designs or where the sign consists exclusively of the shape of a decorative item.

“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

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.

Greta Thunberg wants to protect her names as a trademark

RS254_3-lprIt has become recently known that the famous climate activist Greta Thunberg has filed several trademarks related to her names. All of them are European trademarks for classes 35, 36, 41, 42:

GRETA THUNBERG

FRIDAYS FOR FUTURE

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According to Greta Thunberg, the reason to seek trademark protection was the fact that her names and the hashtags that she uses were subject to unauthorized, falsely and misleading use by others claiming relation with her climate movement, which wasn’t true.

The practice famous people to register their names as trademarks are not new or strange. Quite the contrary, it is understandable because the names of such people can create a kind of value and reputation that deserves to be protected.

The key moment here, however, is to what extent such registrations will be effective. As it is known, 5 years after a trademark registration, every third party can try to cancel it if the mark is not genuinely used for the goods and services mentioned in its application.

Recently the famous graffiti artist Bansky had such problems regarding his trademark.

All of this comes to show that only registration is not enough when it comes to trademark protection. A good entire strategy is necessary in order for one brand name with value and reputation to be effectively protected in the market in the long run.

Chile won a dispute against Peru for the term PISCO

chile-970444_960_720The Chilean vineyard Sociedad Anónima Viña Santa Rita won a dispute before the UK patent office regarding its following trademark for class 33 that contains the word PISCO:

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The Peruvian IP office objected to this registration claiming that only producers from Peru can use the term PISCO to label their products in particular wine.

According to the Chilean vineyard, this wasn’t the case due to the fact that wine under the same name had been producing in Chily for centuries.

The UKIPO ruled that in the case at hand there was no risk for consumer confusion because it was highly unlikely for them to connect the term PISCO only with Pery. In addition, taking into account the whole mark the likelihood of confusion was even smaller.

Similar disputes between Chile and Pery exist in India and Australia too.

Source: WIPR.

MIM is similar to MUMM according to the General Court of the EU

gavel-3577254_1920The General Court of the European Union has ruled in T‑589/18 Vins el Cep, SL v EUIPO. The case concerns an attempt for registration of the following EU trademark in class 33 –  Alcoholic beverages (except beer).

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Against this mark, an opposition was filed based on earlier marks MM, MUMM and the following combined mark, all for class 33:

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The EUIPO upheld the opposition concluding that there is a risk for consumer confusion between the signs. The dominant element in the later mark was MIM, which was similar to MM and MUMM at the beginning and end of the words.

Visually and phonetically the marks at hand were similar too. Conceptually, there was no similarity because the word MUMM meant ‘courage’ in German.

The word part NATURA in the mark applied for, had secondary importance so it wasn’t able to make the difference.

Taking into account the identical goods in class 33, the Office accepted that there is a risk for consumer confusion.

The decision was upheld by the General court.