How a trademark can become a generic term and what is the danger in that regard?

door-green-closed-lock.jpgThe US-based company Safe Skies successfully revoked a European trademark ‘TSA lock’  registered by Travel Sentry for classes:

Class 6:      Metal locks (for luggage).

Class 18:    Bags; backpacks, canvas backpacks, athletics bags, carry-on bags, gym bags, travel bags, beach bags, briefcases, purses, suitcases, trunks, luggage, straps for luggage, waist packs, and wallets.

Class 20:    Non-metal locks (for luggage).

The ground for this revocation was Article 58(1)(b) and (c) EUTMR:

The rights of the proprietor of the EU trade mark shall be declared to be revoked on application to the Office or on the basis of a counterclaim in infringement proceedings:

  • (b) if, in consequence of acts or inactivity of the proprietor, the trademark has become the common name in the trade for a product or service in respect of which it is registered;
  • (c) if, in consequence of the use made of the trademark by the proprietor of the trademark or with his consent in respect of the goods or services for which it is registered, the trademark is liable to mislead the public, particularly as to the nature, quality or geographical origin of those goods or services.

According to Safe Skies, this trademark hadn’t been used as a trademark sign but only as a product name. In the case at hand, TSA lock’ was in use for special type of lock for luggage which allows Border Agencies to open it using a universal master key.

EUIPO revoked the trademark dismissing the owner’s arguments that nobody in the EU understands TSA as an abbreviation for Transportation Security Administration.

According to the Office, this is irrelevant because the consumers of this product named it as TSA lock not perceiving it as a trademark sign.

The submitted pieces of evidence weren’t enough to overcome this conclusion.

This case, although rare, is very essential when it comes to trademark protection because it shows clearly what is the danger when one trademark is used as a product name which sometimes is very tempting from marketing point of view.

Source: WIPR.

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Why ‘Botanical Origin’ cannot be a European trademark?

water-lily-1857350_960_720The EUIPO Board of Appeal has rules in case R 881/2019-5, which concerns an attempt for registration of a word European trademark for ‘Botanical Origin’ in class 3:

All purpose cleaning preparations for household, commercial, industrial and institutional use; cleaning preparations for toilets, bath tubs, sinks and floors; cleaning preparations for kitchen and bathroom surfaces; disposable wipes impregnated with cleaning compounds for use in bathrooms and kitchens; polishing preparations for kitchen and glassware; oven cleaning preparations; stove-top cleaning preparations; cleaning preparations for vitroceramic and kitchen surfaces; glass and metal cleaning preparations; window cleaning preparations; bleaching preparations and other substances for laundry use, whether in solid, fluid or gel form; laundry preparations; carpet cleaning preparations; decalcifying and descaling preparations for household purposes; fabric softeners; laundry detergents and additives; stain removing preparations; scent boosters; prewash and stain loosening preparations; starch; laundry blue; bleaching preparations and other substances for use in dishwashing; cleaning, polishing, scouring and abrasive preparations; dishwasher cleaners, fresheners and deodorizers; rinsing agents; preparations for cleaning and de-clogging dishwashers; decalcifying and descaling agents for household purposes; dish detergents; all the above-mentioned products with or without disinfecting components; soaps; detergents; rust removers and grease removers; drain and sink unblocking preparations; preparations for prevention of limescale, rust or grease

EUIPO refused to register this sign based on absolute grounds art. 7(1)(b) EUTMR, lack of distinctiveness. The decision was appealed.

The Board of Appeal upheld the initial EUIPO position. The arguments for this is that the expression Botanical Origin would be perceived by the relevant public as information that the goods come from a botanical source and/or contain ingredients that have a plant-based origin.

The applicant argued that the sign is distinctive at least for some of the goods where there is no such connotation.

This was dismissed too. According to the Board, the phrase would be “perceived by the relevant public as only providing promotional information on the nature, purpose, performance and subject matter of the goods and services concerned and not as indicating their [commercial] origin”.

Source: WIPR.

Supermac revoked another McDonald’s trademark in the EU

pexels-photo-2083959.jpegThe Irish company Supermac succeeded for the second time to revoke a McDonald’s trademark. This time the attack was initiated against a European trademark “MC” with a priority date back to 2011, registered for the following goods and services:

29 – Foods prepared from meat, pork, fish and poultry products, preserved and cooked fruits and vegetables, eggs, cheese, milk, milk preparations, pickles.

30 – Edible sandwiches, meat sandwiches, pork sandwiches, fish sandwiches, chicken sandwiches, biscuits, bread, cakes, cookies, chocolate, coffee, coffee substitutes, tea, mustard, oatmeal, pastries, sauces, seasonings, sugar; desserts.

32 – Non-alcoholic beverages, syrups and other preparations for making beverages.

43 – Restaurant services.

The reason for this revocation was Article 58(1)(a) of the EUTMR, lack of genuine use for a period of 5 consecutive years.

McDonald’s submitted various pieces of evidence such as affidavits from heads of various McDonald’s European legal departments, menus, printouts, extracts from Annual Reports and surveys.

Unfortunately, some of them were outside the prescribed period of five years and some were even undated.

In light of this, EUIPO upheld the revocation request for most of the goods and services. The arguments were that there was no solid evidence for genuine use. What’s more, the trademark “MC” had never been used alone but only in combination with other words such as ‘McDonald’s’, ‘BIG MAC’, ‘McRIB’, ‘McMUFFIN’, ‘McTOAST’, ‘McFISH’, ‘McWRAP’, ‘McNUGGETS’, ‘McCHICKEN’ and ‘McFLURRY’.

According to EUIPO signs such as ‘McDonald’s’ and ‘BIG MAC’ were not variations of the main trademark “MC”. Others of the trademark such as McMUFFIN’, ‘McFISH’,  ‘McNUGGETS’, ‘McCHICKEN’ were OK because the additional words were completely descriptive.

Taking into account all of this EUIPO revoked the “MC” trademark with exceptions of:

Class 29: Chicken nuggets.
Class 30: Edible sandwiches, meat sandwiches, pork sandwiches, fish
sandwiches, chicken sandwiches.

The full text of the decision can be found here.

Red Bull lost a colorful lawsuit in the EU

paint-2985569_960_720.jpgThe European Court has ruled in case C‑124/18 P Red Bull GmbH v EUIPO. The case which concerns color trademarks has the following background:

Red Bull filed an application for registration in respect of the combination of two colours per se reproduced below:

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By a communication dated 30 June 2003, the appellant submitted additional documents to prove the distinctive character acquired through use of that mark. On 11 October 2004 the appellant submitted a description of the mark that was worded as follows:

‘Protection is claimed for the colours blue (RAL 5002) and silver (RAL 9006). The ratio of the colours is approximately 50%–50%.’

The goods in respect of which registration was sought are in Class 32 ‘Energy drinks’.

The trade mark was registered on 25 July 2005 under number 002534774, with an indication that it had acquired distinctive character through use and the description referred to in paragraph 10 above.

On 20 September 2013 Optimum Mark filed an application with EUIPO for a declaration that the trade mark was invalid.

In support of its application, Optimum Mark contended, first, that the trade mark did not meet the requirements of Article 7(1)(a) of Regulation No 207/2009 since its graphic representation did not systematically arrange the colours by associating them in a predetermined and uniform way and, secondly, that the description of the trade mark, according to which the ratio of the two colours of which the mark was composed was ‘approximately 50%–50%’, allowed for numerous combinations, with the result that consumers would not be able to make further purchases with certainty.

As regards Case T‑102/15, on 1 October 2010 the appellant filed a second application for registration of an EU trade mark with EUIPO relating to a combination of colours per se, as reproduced in paragraph 9 above, in respect of the same goods as those referred to in paragraph 11 above.

On 22 December 2010 the examiner issued a notice that the formal requirements had not been met and consequently requested that the appellant specify ‘in which proportion the two colours will be applied (for example, in equal proportion) and how they will appear’.

On 10 February 2011 the appellant indicated to the examiner that ‘in compliance with [the examiner’s] notification dated 22 December 2010, [the appellant] herewith informed [EUIPO] that the two colours will be applied in equal proportion and juxtaposed to each other’.

On 8 March 2011 the second trade mark was registered on the basis of distinctive character acquired through use, with the colours being given as ‘blue (Pantone 2747C), silver (Pantone 877C)’ and the following description: ‘The two colours will be applied in equal proportion and juxtaposed to each other’.

On 27 September 2011 Optimum Mark filed an application with EUIPO for a declaration that that mark was invalid, contending, first, that it did not meet the requirements of Article 7(1)(a) of Regulation No 207/2009 and, secondly, that, on account of the fact that the term ‘juxtaposed’ might have several meanings, the description of the trade mark did not indicate the type of arrangement in which the two colours would be applied to the goods and was therefore not self-contained, clear and precise.

By two decisions of 9 October 2013, the Cancellation Division of EUIPO declared the two marks in question (‘the marks at issue’) invalid, inter alia on the ground that they were not sufficiently precise. The Cancellation Division relied on the fact that they allowed numerous different combinations which would not permit the consumer to perceive and recall a particular combination, thereby enabling him to make further purchases with certainty.

Red Bull filed notices of appeal against those two decisions before the Board of Appeal of EUIPO.

By two decisions of 2 December 2014 (‘the decisions at issue’), the First Board of Appeal of EUIPO dismissed both appeals, considering, in essence, that the graphic representation of the marks at issue, evaluated in conjunction with the accompanying description, did not satisfy the requirements of precision and durability laid down in the judgment of 24 June 2004, Heidelberger Bauchemie, (C‑49/02, EU:C:2004:384), according to which marks consisting of a combination of colours must be systematically arranged in such a way that the colours concerned are associated in a predetermined and uniform way. According to the First Board of Appeal of EUIPO, the marks at issue allowed for the arrangement of the two colours in numerous different combinations, producing a very different overall impression.

The European court upheld the EUIPO decisions regarding both of the marks. The main problem is their descriptions which don’t give a precise idea of how exactly they are used as trade indications for the relevant goods. This can create different combinations of their real representations in the consumer mind which is against the trademark theory.

In a nutshell, when it comes to color trademarks it is really important what descriptions these mark will have because the descriptions themselves will define the real borders and forms of the signs. This, in turn, is necessary in order for the signs to be perceived as a source of origin.

To love Y is not as to fly

heart-shape-1714807_960_720.jpgThe European Court ruled in case C‑99/18 P, FTI Touristik GmbH v Harald Prantner и Daniel Giersch, which in brief concerns an attempt by both individuals to register the following European trademark:

download.pngIts classes of goods and services are as follow:

– Class 16: “Printed matter; photographs; stationery; wrapping materials; printed publications; books; handbooks [manuals]; pamphlets; newsletters; albums; newspapers; magazines and periodicals; tickets; vouchers; coupons and travel documents; passes; tags and labels; posters; postcards; calendars; diaries; instructional material”;

–  Class 39: “Transport; travel arrangement; travel information; provision of car parking facilities; transportation of goods, passengers and travelers by air, land, sea and rail; airline and shipping services; airport check-in services; arranging of transportation for passengers, goods and trips by land and sea; airline services; baggage handling services; cargo handling and freight services; arranging, operating and providing facilities for cruises, tours, excursions and vacations; aircraft chartering; rental and hire of aircraft, cars and boats; taxi services; bus services; chauffeuring; coach services; train services; airport transfer services; airport parking services; aircraft parking services; escorting of travellers; travel agency services; advisory, consultancy and information services relating to all the aforesaid services; providing information regarding transportation services; providing travel information online; travel booking via computer databases or the Internet”;

–  Class 43: “Services for providing food and drink, temporary accommodation; restaurant and bar services; food and drink catering; provision of holiday accommodation; booking and reservation services for restaurants and holiday accommodation; hotels and/or restaurants; reservations in connection with running hotels.”

Against this application, an opposition was filed by FTI Touristik on the ground of the following early registered European trademark for classes 16, 39, 41, 43:

download (1).png

EUIPO ruled that there is no significant similarity between the signs at hand, stating that:

“Phonetically, it found, in essence, that for the public that did not know the English term “fly”, the signs at issue bore no similarity. For consumers that did know the English word “fly”, there was a phonetic similarity provided that the mark applied for was associated with the word “fly”. However, this seemed rather unlikely since, first, there was a great difference between the letter “y” and the stylised heart in the mark applied for and, secondly, it was unusual to replace the letter “y” with a heart symbol. Conceptually, it found, that, for the public that did not know the English term “fly”, the signs at issue bore no similarity. For consumers that did know and understand the English word “fly”, there was a conceptual similarity provided that the word “fly” was identified in the mark applied for. However, this seemed unlikely for the same reasons as those set out in the context of the assessment of the phonetic similarity.”

The decision was appealed.

The European court agreed with EUIPO dismissing the appeal. Most consumers will not understand an image of the heart in the later mark as Y letter. Even in case that this is possible the additional element .de in the earlier mark is sufficient to make the necessary distinction between the signs.

The 2 millionth EU trademark application has been reached

flag-2608475_960_720.jpgEUIPO announced the 2 millionth EUTM application which was filed by the Czech company Crefoport s.r.o.

Only in 2018, there were more than 150 000 new applications for EU trademarks. All of that shows the dynamic interest toward these trademarks from around the world. What’s more, every new applicant has to be more careful when filing new EU trademarks taking into account the possible conflicts with already registered signs. One of the option to avoid this negative perspective is conduction preliminary trademark search followed by an in-depth analysis.