Converse lost a dispute for a shoe sole in the EU

pexels-photo-1353361.jpegThe General Court of the European Union has ruled in the case T-611/17 All Star (Converse) v EUIPO – Carrefour Hypermarchés. The case concerns the following already registered figurative European trademark for classes 17, 25,35:

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Against this mark, an application for a declaration of invalidity was filed by the French company Carrefour based on Article 52(1)(a) EUTMR and Article 7(1)(b) and (e)(ii) and (iii) EUTMR.

EUIPO invalidated the trademark at hand concluding that it is not possible for consumers to perceive it as a sign for trade origin. According to the Office, the practice of using simple geometric shapes for soles are widespread, as can be seen for many examples:

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Consumers will look on them as something that will help them to walk easily, comfortably or securely but not as a sign for trade origin.

Although the Office made some mistakes when it comes to the scope of goods and services for which this invalidation is applicable (corrected after that), the General Court confirmed this decision in its entirety.

The EUIPO decision is accessible here.

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Adidas won a trademark opposition in Japan

great-torii-of-miyajima-1425480_960_720.jpgAdidas won an opposition against the following application for a figurative trademark, applied for Class 25 by a Chinese company:

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Against this sign, Addidas opposed its following earlier national trademark in Japan in Class 25 too:

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According to the German producer, both signs are confusingly similar because their visual elements create a similar impression in consumers. What’s more, Adidas’s mark has a reputation which increases, even more, the risk of confusion.

The Opposition Board coalesce with Adidas concluding that there is a possibility for consumer confusion because both signs are visually similar for identical goods and all of that is supported by the earlier trademark’s reputation.

Source:  Masaki Mikami, MARKS IP LAW FIRM (JAPAN) 

Ordering trademark damages in Argentina – new moments

argentina-162229_960_720.pngCarlos Castrillo published an interesting article for Marques Class 46 regarding the practice for awarding damages for trademark infringements in Argentina.

In order such damages to be given, the law in the country requires:

  • The existence of an infringement.
  • Made with fraud or fault.
  • Causing proved loss or damage.

Damage cannot be inferred; it has to be proved. The local court’s practice has refused such damages until now.  This gave relative peace of trademark infringers in the country because they only risk a cease-and-desist order together with the payment of professional fees.

In a new lawsuit between Adidas and Juan Carlos Chilemi SRL, however, the Court of Appeal ordered damages in the amount of 55 000 dollars despite the fact that Adidas failed to prove any loses.

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The court based its decision on an exception in the Civil Procedure Code which gives the authorizes to grant damages if the damages are proven to have occurred but are difficult to determine.

The full article can be found here.

Designs, novelty and a General Court decision

The General Court of the EU ruled in Case T‑651/16, Crocs, Inc. v EUIPO, Gifi Diffusion. This case concerns a registered EU design 257001-0001 by Western Brands LLC on 22.11.2004 with claimed priority based on a US design registered on 28.05.2004.

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This EU design after that was transferred to Crocs. In 2013, the French-based company Gifi Diffusion filed an application for a declaration of invalidity of the design based on a lack of novelty.

As it is known, one EU design can receive protection only in the case that it is novel and has individual character.

EUIPO took a decision for invalidation of the design, which decision was confirmed by the General Court.

The reason for this was that information for the design was available in 2003 through the Corcs’ website, it was displayed on an exhibition in Florida and was available for sale.

Corcs argued that such information wasn’t accessible in EU at that time, but the Court dismissed it because there was no evidence that the Corcs’website wasn’t accessible in EU.

This case is indicative of the need for a good intellectual property planning. In the case of industrial designs and inventions, this is crucial because if these IP assets are not new, for example, they cannot be protected. Due to this, all information regarding them has to be managed very carefully in order to fulfill the respective legal requirements.

Adidas with an important victory before the General Court of the EU

The General Court of the EU ruled in Cases T-629/16 and T-85/16 Shoe Branding Europe BVBA v EUIPO.

These cases concern an attempt by Shoe Branding to register the following EU trademark for Class 25:

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Against this mark, an opposition was filed by Adidas based on earlier marks for a similar sign:

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EUIPO upheld the opposition, finding that there is a likelihood of confusion based on the similarity of the signs and the reputation attached to the Adidas’ earlier marks.

Shoe Branding appealed before the Court claiming that there is no similarity and what’s more both signs had been peacefully coexisting in Germany for many years.

The Court upheld the EUIPO’s decision as correct. Apart from the fact that both marks are confusingly similar, according to the court, the applicant was trying to take unfair advantages from the proved reputation of the earlier marks. An evidence for this was an advertising slogan “TWO STRIPES ARE ENOUGH“ used in Portugal, which indirectly made a link with the Adidas’ marks.

With regard to the trademarks coexistence, the Court dismissed it, because there was no evidence for such on an EU level.

 

Red Color, Shoes and Value

pexels-photo-267292The Advocate General of the European Court M. Szpunar gave its opinion regarding the interesting Case C‑163/16 – Christian Louboutin, Christian Louboutin SAS v Van Haren Schoenen BV.

This is his second opinion because surprisingly the Court took a decision to reassign the case to the Grand Chamber.  The Court decided to reopen the oral procedure and requested the interested parties to attend a new hearing.

In a nutshell, the case concerns the following:

Mr Christian Louboutin is a fashion designer who designs, amongst other things, high-heeled shoes for women. Those shoes have the particular feature that the outer sole is always red.

On 28 December 2009, Louboutin lodged an application for a trade mark which led to the registration, on 6 January 2010, for goods in Class 25, namely ‘footwear (other than orthopaedic footwear)’, of Benelux trade mark No 0874489 (‘the contested mark’). On 10 April 2013, the registration was amended so as to limit the goods covered to ‘high-heeled shoes (other than orthopaedic shoes)’.

The trade mark is described as consisting ‘of the colour red (Pantone 18 1663TP) applied to the sole of a shoe as shown (the contour of the shoe is not part of the trade mark but is intended to show the positioning of the mark)’. It is reproduced below:

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Van Haren operates shoe retail outlets in the Netherlands. During 2012, Van Haren sold high-heeled women’s shoes with red soles.

Louboutin brought proceedings before the Rechtbank Den Haag (District Court of The Hague, Netherlands) seeking a finding of trade mark infringement on the part of Van Haren, which it obtained.

This judgment, given by default, was challenged by Van Haren by way of opposition under Article 2.1(2) of the Benelux convention, alleging that the contested mark was invalid.

In the order for reference, the Rechtbank Den Haag (District Court of The Hague) explains that Van Haren’s line of defence is based on the assertion that the contested mark is in fact a two-dimensional mark, more specifically the colour red which, when applied to the soles of shoes, conforms to the shape of the shoes and gives them substantial value.

The referring court considers that the mark at issue is not a simple two-dimensional mark in that it is inextricably linked to the sole of a shoe. It observes that, while it is clear that the contested mark is an element of the goods, it is unclear whether the concept of ‘shape’, within the meaning of Article 3(1)(e)(iii) of Directive 2008/95, is limited to three-dimensional properties of the goods, such as their contours, measurements and volume, to the exclusion of colours.

In this regard, the referring court considers that if it were to be held that the concept of ‘shape’ does not extend to the colours of goods, then the grounds for refusal set out in Article 3(1)(e)(iii) would be inapplicable. It would therefore be possible to obtain permanent protection for marks incorporating a colour resulting from a function of the goods, for example, in relation to reflective safety clothing, or bottles covered with insulating material.

The new Advocate General’s opinion is as follow:

Article 3(1)(e)(iii) 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 is to be interpreted as being capable of applying to a sign consisting of the shape of a product and seeking protection for a certain colour. The concept of a shape which ‘gives substantial value’ to the goods, within the meaning of that provision, relates only to the intrinsic value of the shape, and does not permit the reputation of the mark or its proprietor to be taken into account.