PepsiCo won a crisp lawsuit in the EU

snack-1555522_960_720PepsiCo won lawsuit T‑82/17 before the General Court of the European Union regarding invalidation of ‘Exxtra Deep’ European trademark registered by the German-based company Intersnack Group for classes 29, 30 and 31.

According to PepsiCo, this trademark is descriptive and devoid of distinctive character for the goods in the above-mentioned classes.

The EUIPO upheld the invalidation partly, accepting that DEEP can be used from manufacturers to describe the crisp deep ridges, that is to say, the product shape. For some of the products, however, the trademark is not descriptive, namely for dried fruits and preserved vegetables.

PepsiCo appealed this decision.

According to the General Court, the EUIPO erred in its assessment because crisp can be produced based on fruits and vegetables too.

First, as is expressly indicated in the description of the goods in Class 29 covered by the contested mark, snack products (in particular crisps) are made from potatoes, which, it cannot be denied, are vegetables, as demonstrated in particular by the definition in the Oxford English Dictionary, produced by the applicant before EUIPO, according to which a vegetable is ‘any living organism that is not an animal; specifically one belonging to the plant kingdom’. That fact is not disputed by the intervener.

Second, crisps can be made from vegetables other than potatoes, or from fruit, as the applicant points out.

Third, there is nothing to prevent crisps made from vegetables or from fruit from being regarded as dried or cooked vegetables or fruits. As the applicant notes, crisps can be fried or dried or cooked.

Fourth, as the applicant correctly states, fruit and vegetables in Class 29 are ‘preserved, dried and cooked’. They are not fresh fruit, which comes under Class 31. Crisps, or more broadly, ‘extruded and pelletised or otherwise manufactured or processed vegetable and potato products for snacks’, are produced from preserved, dried or cooked vegetables and fruits.

Thus, on the grounds put forward by the applicant, which are not disputed by EUIPO, ‘extruded and pelletised or otherwise manufactured or processed vegetable and potato products for snacks’, in Class 29, are covered by the category of ‘preserved, dried and cooked fruit and vegetables’ in the same class.

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The EU with a new plan for protecting IPRs

flag-2608475_960_720News from the Council of the EU:

The Council today endorsed a new EU customs action plan to combat infringements of intellectual property rights (IPR).

The new action plan will cover the years 2018 to 2022.

It will ensure effective enforcement of IPR, tackle trade of IPR infringing goods throughout the international supply chain and strengthen cooperation in this area with the European Observatory as well as relevant law enforcement authorities.

The Commission is invited to prepare a roadmap by Spring 2019 on the implementation of the new action plan, as well as to monitor this implementation and to submit annual reports to the Council.

More information can be found here.

“Cooking Chef Gourmet” cannot be a trademark according to the EU General Court

food-mixer-413737_960_720.jpgThe General Court of the European Union has issued a decision which confirmed the EUIPO position to reject trademark protection for “Cooking Chef Gourmet” applied for Classes 7 and 11 (cooking appliances) filed by the Italian company De’Longhi.

According to EUIPO, this slogan is laudatory and descriptive because it is widely used for food and drink by general and specialised (in the restaurant business) public that uses English language.

The Court upheld this decision dismissing De’Longhi’s arguments that its mark has acquired distinctive character based on its connection with the famous Chef that has been using since the 1950s.

The Court considered this as an inappropriate suggestion because there was no evidence submitted before the EUIPO that supported this statement. What’s more, the applied-for mark and the famous earlier mark were too different for such a conclusion.

Source:WIPR.

A revised Guidelines for registration of European designs.

europe-1395916_960_720EUIPO reports about the revised Guidelines for Examination of Registered Community Designs.

The revision focused on a number of important issues, such as the role of product indications and functionality in designs, and incorporating recent Court rulings into the Guidelines.

For more information here.

Christian Archambeau is the new Executive Director of the EUIPO

Christian_Archambeau_newsChristian Archambeau is the new Executive Director of the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), after his appointment was confirmed by the European Council.

Mr Archambeau was born in Belgium and has held different positions related to intellectual property matters and not only, including at the European Patent Office and European Space Agency.

More information can be found here.

Let’s wish a lot of success to Mr Archambeau in his new role.

Puma won a lawsuit related to its brand reputation

puma-1838735_960_720.jpgThe General Court of the EU ruled in case T‑62/16 Puma SE v EUIPO and Doosan Machine Tools Co. Ltd.

The case concerns an attempt by Doosan to register the following European trademark in class 7: Lathes; CNC (computer numerical control) lathes; machining centres; turning centre; electric discharge machine. Puma claimed a mark with a reputation on top of that.downloadAgainst this mark, an opposition was filed by Puma based on the following earlier marks for Classes 18,25, 28, one of them for Class 7 too:

EUIPO rejected the opposition stating that the goods are so dissimilar that there are no possibilities for consumer confusion especially bearing in mind the fact that the relevant public in both of the cases is different.

Puma appealed this decision.

The General Court sided with the German company and annulled the EUIPO’s decision with the following arguments:

It follows from the considerations set out in paragraphs 68 to 71, 77 and 78 above that the Board of Appeal, first, did not properly take account of the degree of reputation relied on by the applicant and, secondly, did not properly assess the degree of inherent distinctive character of the earlier marks in its examination of whether there was a link between the marks at issue in the mind of the relevant public.

It should be recalled that the strength of the reputation and the degree of distinctive character, inherent or acquired by use, of the earlier marks may have a significant effect on the assessment of whether there is a link between the marks at issue.

In accordance with the case-law, certain marks may have acquired such a reputation that it goes beyond the relevant public as regards the goods or services for which those marks were registered. In such a case, the relevant section of the public as regards the goods or services for which the later mark is registered might make a connection between the conflicting marks, even though that public is wholly distinct from the relevant section of the public as regards goods or services for which the earlier mark was registered.

Thus, where the public concerned by the goods designated by the earlier mark and the public concerned by the goods designated by the mark applied for are distinct, it may be necessary to take account of the strength of the reputation of the earlier mark in order to determine whether that reputation extends beyond the public concerned by that mark.

Therefore, in the present case, even if there is no direct link between the goods designated by the marks at issue, which are dissimilar as the Board of Appeal found in paragraph 32 of the contested decision, the finding of an association with the earlier marks could, nevertheless, still have been possible if the Board of Appeal had properly taken account of the degree of reputation relied on by the applicant. Thus, even if the sections of the public which are respectively the target of the goods and services covered by each of those marks do not overlap, given that the goods concerned are different, it is possible that a connection between the marks at issue may be established, considering also the high degree of similarity between them.

The dissimilarity between the goods designated respectively by the marks at issue is therefore not a sufficient factor for excluding the existence of a link between those marks, bearing in mind also that the existence of such a link must be assessed globally, that is to say, by taking into account all of the relevant factors of the case.

The case was returned to the EUIPO for re-examination.

The EU Court gave clarifications for obtaining an SPC

Large-3x5-FT-European-Union-EU-Flag-Brand-90-150cm-Wave-Euro-Flag-of-Europe-superThe European Court ruled in the case C‑121/17, Teva UK Lt v Generics (UK) Ltd, which concerns the following:

Gilead is a pharmaceutical company which markets an antiretroviral medicinal product indicated for the treatment of persons infected with HIV, under the name TRUVADA. That medicinal product contains two active ingredients, tenofovir disoproxil (‘TD’) and emtricitabine, which have a combined effect for that treatment. It was granted a marketing authorisation (‘MA’) on 21 November 2005 by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

Gilead is the holder of the European patent (UK) EP 0 915 894 (‘the basic patent at issue’). The patent application, filed on 25 July 1997, had a priority date, for the purposes of Article 88 of the EPC, of 26 July 1996. That patent was granted by the European Patent Office (EPO) on 14 May 2003 and expired on 24 July 2017. The description of the invention contained in that patent indicates that the patent covers, in general terms, a series of molecules which are helpful in the therapeutic treatment of a number of viral infections in humans and animals, in particular HIV.

That description gives a series of pharmaceutical formulae which may be envisaged for the compounds claimed, without referring specifically to individual compounds or to any particular use for those compounds. Claim 25 of the basic patent at issue expressly mentions TD as one of the claimed compounds.

That description also mentions the fact that those compounds may, if necessary, be associated with ‘other therapeutic ingredients’. The words ‘other therapeutic ingredients’, however, are neither defined nor explained in the basic patent at issue.

In that regard, claim 27 of the basic patent at issue states:

‘A pharmaceutical composition comprising a compound according to any one of claims 1-25 together with a pharmaceutically acceptable carrier and optionally other therapeutic ingredients.’

In 2008, Gilead obtained an SPC on the basis of claim 27 of the basic patent at issue and the MA (‘the SPC at issue’). That SPC relates to a ‘composition containing [TD], optionally in the form of a pharmaceutically acceptable salt, hydrate, tautomer or solvate, together with Emtricitabine’.

The order for reference states that there is no evidence that at the priority date of the basic patent at issue, emtricitabine was an effective agent known to the person skilled in the art for the treatment of HIV in humans. The EMA did not approve emtricitabine until 2003.

The applicants in the main proceedings, who intend to market generic versions of TRUVADA on the UK market, brought an action before the referring court, the High Court of Justice (England & Wales), Chancery Division (Patents Court), seeking to challenge the validity of the SPC at issue.

In support of their action, the applicants in the main proceedings submit that the SPC does not meet the condition laid down in Article 3(a) of Regulation No 469/2009. They point out that to meet the requirement in that provision, the product in question must, in accordance with the judgment of 24 November 2011, Medeva (C‑322/10, EU:C:2011:773), be ‘specified in the wording of the claims’. Where there is a functional definition in the relevant claim relating to the product, that claim must ‘relate, implicitly but necessarily and specifically’ to that product, in accordance with the terms used by the Court in the judgment of 12 December 2013, Eli Lilly and Company (C‑493/12, EU:C:2013:835). The applicants in the main proceedings submit that emtricitabine is not specified in the wording of claim 27 of the basic patent at issue and that the expression ‘other therapeutic ingredients’ used in that claim does not specify any active ingredient, whether structurally or functionally. The TD/emtricitabine combination cannot therefore be considered to be protected by a basic patent in force, within the meaning of Article 3(a) of Regulation No 469/2009.

By contrast, Gilead contends in essence that, in order to check whether Article 3(a) of Regulation No 469/2009 is satisfied, it is necessary and sufficient that the product in question falls within the extent of the protection conferred under at least one claim of the basic patent. It submits that the expression ‘other therapeutic ingredients’ used in claim 27 of the basic patent at issue relates implicitly but necessarily to emtricitabine, in accordance with the judgment of 12 December 2013, Eli Lilly and Company (C‑493/12, EU:C:2013:835). The TD/emtricitabine combination therefore, it argues, satisfies the condition laid down in that article.

The referring court takes the view that, notwithstanding the judgments delivered by the Court on interpretation of Article 3(a) of Regulation No 469/2009, the meaning to be given to that provision remains unclear.

That court states that, admittedly, it is clear from the Court’s case-law that the concept of a ‘product protected by a basic patent’ within the meaning of Article 3(a) of Regulation No 469/2009 refers to the rules governing the extent of protection, not the rules governing infringement. Furthermore, it follows from paragraph 28 of the judgment of 24 November 2011, Medeva (C‑322/10, EU:C:2011:773), that to be considered ‘protected by a basic patent’ within the meaning of that provision, the active ingredients should be specified in the wording of the claims of the patent in question.

Nevertheless, the judgments of 12 December 2013, Actavis Group PTC and Actavis UK (C‑443/12, EU:C:2013:833), of 12 December 2013, Eli Lilly and Company (C‑493/12, EU:C:2013:835), and of 12 March 2015, Actavis Group PTC and Actavis UK (C‑577/13, EU:C:2015:165) imply that the principles described in the preceding paragraph are not sufficient for the purposes of determining whether a ‘product is protected by a basic patent in force’ and that it is also necessary to take into account the ‘subject-matter of the invention covered by the patent’ or the ‘core inventive advance’ of the patent. The referring court takes the view that it is not clear from that case-law whether those requirements are relevant for the purposes of the interpretation of Article 3(a) of Regulation No 469/2009.

According to the referring court, there are also divergent decisions in a number of Member States concerning the issue, before the court in the present case, of the availability of an SPC for the TD/emtricitabine combination and, more generally, concerning the interpretation of Article 3(a) of Regulation No 469/2009.

In those circumstances, the High Court of Justice (England & Wales), Chancery Division (Patents Court) decided to stay the proceedings and to refer the following question to the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling:

‘What are the criteria for deciding whether “the product is protected by a basic patent in force” in Article 3(a) of Regulation No 469/2009?’

The Court’s decision:

Article 3(a) of Regulation No 469/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 May 2009, concerning the supplementary protection certificate for medicinal products, must be interpreted as meaning that a product composed of several active ingredients with a combined effect is ‘protected by a basic patent in force’ within the meaning of that provision where, even if the combination of active ingredients of which that product is composed is not expressly mentioned in the claims of the basic patent, those claims relate necessarily and specifically to that combination. For that purpose, from the point of view of a person skilled in the art and on the basis of the prior art at the filing date or priority date of the basic patent:

–        the combination of those active ingredients must necessarily, in the light of the description and drawings of that patent, fall under the invention covered by that patent, and

–        each of those active ingredients must be specifically identifiable, in the light of all the information disclosed by that patent.