The 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:
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.