More e-services regarding trademarks and designs in Benelux

atomium-3590412_960_720EUIPO reports about some new e-services provided by The Benelux Office for Intellectual Property (BOIP). These services regard the option for online Change of Representative and Transfer of Rights for trademarks and for designs.

The above mentioned digital services will complement already existing such for Change of Name, Change of Address, Change of Name and Address, Renewal Trade Mark, Renewal Design, Opposition, and e-Filing Trade Mark/Design.

All of this is a result of the work carried out by the EUIPO and the national Patent Offices in the EU Member States under the European Cooperation Projects (ECP1).

For more information here.

When food content is important for design protection?

food-2490641_960_720The General Court of the European Union has ruled in case Case T‑352/19, Gamma-A SIA v Zivju pārstrādes uzņēmumu serviss SIA.

It concerns the following European design registered for class Class 9-3: ‘Packaging for foodstuffs’:

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The packaging represents a container with a transparent lid.

Against this design an application for invalidity was filed based on lack of novelty and individual character. The reason for this was the following earlier design for similar packaging:

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Initially the EUIPO dismissed the invalidity request stating that the food contained in the container is part of the deigns protection which makes both design dissimilar.

The Board of Appeal, however annulled this decision considering both design identical.

The General Court upheld this position. The fact that the contents of the packaging in which it is intended to be incorporated are visible does not extend the
protection conferred on the contested design to those contents. The presence of visible foodstuffs inside the products merely provides a better illustration of the purpose of the design, namely as packaging for foodstuffs, as well as one of their components, specifically the transparent lid. The comparison of the overall impressions produced
by the designs must relate solely to the elements actually protected . The protection
conferred by the contested design relates to its appearance in that it is intended to be incorporated into packaging for foodstuffs having certain components with specific characteristics, namely a metal container that has a transparent lid with a
translucent tab. The foodstuffs inside the container must not, therefore, be taken into consideration for the purpose of assessing the ‘overall impression’.

Based on this the registered design was invalidated successfully.

Source: Alicante News

EUIPO extends time limits again in the light of Covid-19

envato-4966945_1920EUIPO announced its decision to extend time limits regarding different procedures related to European trademark and design protection.

1) In accordance with Article 101(4) EUTMR and Article 58(4) CDIR, all time limits expiring between 1 May 2020 and 17 May 2020 inclusive that affect all parties in proceedings before the Office are extended until 18 May 2020.

(2) In the event parties to proceedings before the Office choose to discharge their procedural obligations before the expiry of the extended time limit, by submitting observations, documents or performing any other procedural act, the relevant time limit will be considered exhausted and the proceedings will continue without awaiting its expiration pursuant to Article 1.

The full text of the decision is available here.

Superman upheld his reputation in the EU

photo-1538051046377-5ad74dc62f95DC Comics won a dispute in the EU regarding its famous Superman trademark. The case concerns an attempt by Magic Box to register the following EU trademark in class 28 – toys and games:

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Against this mark an opposition was filed by DC Comics based on the following earlier trademark in classes 3, 9, 14, 16, 25, 21, 24, 25, 28, 30, 32 и 41:

superman

In addition, a  trademark with reputation under Article 8(5) EUTMR was claimed.

The EUIPO found both sign similar at least in one of their aspects. The Office agreed that Superman trademark was well-known in the EU, but for the goods in class 16 – comics and books and not for film making services in class 41.

According to the EUIPO, it is a common practice different characters from books to be used for merchandising products including for different toys which are very much accepted by the consumers. From that point of view, and taking into account the reputation of the earlier mark, the Office considered that the consumers could find a link between both marks which can give some unfair advantages to the applicant of the later mark.

Because of this the trademark application was rejected.

Source: IPKat.

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.

Revealing IP addresses, YouTube and the EU approach

post-letter-2828146_960_720The Advocate General of the European Court H. SAUGMANDSGAARD ØE issued its opinion on case C‑264/19 Constantin Film Verleih GmbH v YouTube LLC.

This dispute regards the main question whether the IP address of a copyright infringer is the same as the meaning of his/her actual address.

The case background is:

Constantin Film Verleih is a film distributor established in Germany.

YouTube, which is owned by Google and established in the United States, operates the internet platform with the same name.

In Germany, Constantin Film Verleih has exclusive exploitation rights in respect of the cinematographic works Parker and Scary Movie 5.

Between the months of June 2013 and September 2014, those two works were posted online on the ‘YouTube’ platform without Constantin Film Verleih’s consent. On 29 June 2013, the cinematographic work Parker was uploaded in its full-length version and in German under the username ‘N1’. It was viewed more than 45 000 times before it was blocked on 14 August 2013. During the month of September 2013, the cinematographic work Scary Movie 5 was uploaded in its full-length version under the username ‘N2’. It was viewed more than 6 000 times before it was blocked on 29 October 2013. On 10 September 2014, another copy of the second work was uploaded under the username ‘N3’. It was viewed more than 4 700 times before it was blocked on 21 September 2014.

Constantin Film Verleih demanded that YouTube and Google provide it with a set of information for each of the users who had uploaded those works.

The referring court found that the conditions for the right to information were satisfied. Consequently, the scope of the dispute in the main proceedings is limited to the content of the information that YouTube and/or Google must provide to Constantin Film Verleih. More specifically, the dispute concerns the following information:

–        the user’s email address,

–        the user’s telephone number,

–        the IP address used by the user to upload the files at issue, together with the precise point in time at which such uploading took place, and

–        the IP address last used by the user to access his or her Google/YouTube account, together with the precise point in time at which that access took place.

Ruling at first instance, the Regional Court, Frankfurt am Main, Germany rejected Constantin Film Verleih’s request that such information be provided.

On appeal, the Higher Regional Court, Frankfurt am Main, Germany ordered YouTube and Google to provide the email addresses of the users concerned, rejecting Constantin Film Verleih’s request as to the remainder.

By its appeal on a point of law, brought before the Federal Court of Justice, Constantin Film Verleih requested that YouTube and Google be ordered to provide it with all of the abovementioned information, including users’ telephone numbers and IP addresses. By their own appeal on a point of law, YouTube and Google requested that Constantin Film Verleih’s request be rejected in its entirety, including in so far as it concerns users’ email addresses.

Taking the view that the outcome of the two appeals on a point of law depended on the interpretation of the concept of ‘addresses’ contained in Article 8(2)(a) of Directive 2004/48, the Federal Court of Justice decided to stay the proceedings and to refer the following questions to the Court for a preliminary ruling:

‘(1)  Do the addresses of the producers, manufacturers, distributors, suppliers and other previous holders of the goods or services, as well as the intended wholesalers and retailers, mentioned in Article 8(2)(a) of Directive [2004/48] and covered, as appropriate, by the information referred to in Article 8(1) of [that] directive, also include

(a) the email addresses of service users and/or

(b) the telephone numbers of service users and/or

(c) the IP addresses used by service users to upload infringing files, together with the precise point in time at which such uploading took place?

(2)  If the answer to Question 1(c) is in the affirmative:

Does the information to be provided under Article 8(2)(a) of Directive [2004/48] also cover the IP address that a user, who has previously uploaded infringing files, last used to access his or her Google/YouTube user account, together with the precise point in time at which access took place, irrespective of whether any infringement [of intellectual property rights] was committed when that account was last accessed?’

The Advocate’s opinion:

Article 8(2)(a) of Directive 2004/48/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the enforcement of intellectual property rights must be interpreted as meaning that the concept of ‘names and addresses’ set out in that provision does not cover, in respect of a user who has uploaded files which infringe intellectual property rights, the email address, the telephone number, the IP address used to upload those files or the IP address used when the user’s account was last accessed.

Accordingly, the Member States are not obliged, under that provision, to provide for the possibility, for the competent judicial authorities, to order that that information be provided in the context of proceedings concerning an infringement of an intellectual property right

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.