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.

Puma failed to register “Puma Tokyo 2021” as a trademark in the US

pexels-photo-2016145The German sportswear producer PUMA faced a challenge to register a trademark for “Puma Tokyo 2021” in the US.

The USPTO refused the application for this mark with the argument that it refers clearly to the Olympic Games and the United States Olympic Committee.

The application was filed on the same day as the announced rescheduling of the Tokyo Olympics. This can mislead consumers to think that there is a connection between Puma and the Olympic Games including the United States Olympic Committee.

Earlier this year other applications filed in the US by the German producer for “Puma Euro 2021” and “Puma Euro 2022” were turned down too.

Source: insidethegames.biz.

Hermes won a dispute in Japan over its trademark for bags “Kelly”

bag-2888972_960_720The French fashion house HERMES INTERNATIONAL won an opposition against a trademark application in Japan for D.KELLY”  in class 18 – bags and pouches.

Against this application Hermes invoked its earlier trademark for “KELLY” in class 18 too. In addition a trademark with reputation was claimed.

According to the French company there was a clear similarity between both signs which could create confusion among the consumer in the country. The dominant element in the later mark was “KELLY” whereas the “D” letter had no significant implication for the understanding of the mark.

Hermes submitted evidence for the reputation of its mark which had been in use since 1956. The brand was inspired by the Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco. The annual turnover from sales in Japan under this trademark was about 43 million dollars. Apart from this there were many advertising campaigns.

The Patent Office upheld the opposition concluding there both sign are confusingly similar which was supported by the high level of reputation of the earlier mark in Japan.

Source: Masaki MIKAMI.

Not everyone is allowed to use Irish names and symbols to sell products – an EUIPO decision

irish-844928_1920The Grand Board of Appeal of the EUIPO has ruled in an interesting case which concerns deceptive trademarks registered in bad faith.

The case at hand regards the following European trademark registered by the Spanish company Hijos de Moisés Rodríguez González S.A for the goods in class 29 (meat, fish, poultry and game, meat extracts, preserved, frozen, dried and cooked fruits and vegetables, jellies, jams, compotes, eggs, milk and milk products, edible oils and fats):

La Irlandesa

This trademark was attacked by the Irish Ministry for Jobs, Enterprise and the Irish Dairy Board jointly with an invalidation request.

According to both institutions, the registered trademark can lead consumers to think that the branded goods originate from Ireland which could not be the case. What’s more the mark was registered in bad faith because the owner had trade relations with the Irish Dairy Board in the past and tried to registered several similar trademarks for La Irlandesa.

Although EUIPO initially dismissed the request for invalidation, the Grand Board upheld it entirely.

The name La Irlandesa has clear meaning associating with Ireland. In addition, the color and the graphical elements have such connotations too. This can deceive the consumer to think that the products are from Ireland. According to some evidence the mark was used not only for products imported from Ireland but for other goods too.

In order bad faith to be established consideration must be taken of: (a) the origin of the contested sign and its use since its creation; (b) the commercial logic underlying the filing of the application for registration of the sign as an EUTM; and (c) the chronology of events leading up to that filing (T-257/11, COLOURBLIND).

In addition, the concept of bad faith involves a dishonest intention or other deceitful motive that departs from accepted principles of ethical behaviour or honest commercial and business practices (T-795/17, NEYMAR).

Finally, pursuant to Articles 5(4) and 6(1)(b) of the Directive 2005/29/EC (Unfair Commercial Practices Directive), commercial practices are considered ‘unfair’ and therefore dishonest if they contain false information or are in any way such as to deceive the average consumer in relation, inter alia, to the main characteristics of the product, such as its geographical or commercial origin.

Taking into account all of the above, the Grand Board concluded that there is a bad faith intention for the registration of the mark bearing the mind the trade relations between the trademark owner and the Irish Dairy Board and the possibility for consumer deception.

Source: IPKat.

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.

Bridgestone won a trademark dispute in Japan

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The Japan Patent Office has ruled in a case for invalidation of the SB NAGAMOCHI trademark registered for the goods in class 12: non-electric prime movers for land vehicles, not including their parts; AC motors or DC motors for land vehicles, not including their parts; automobiles and their parts and fittings; two-wheeled motor vehicles, bicycles and their parts and fittings; adhesive rubber patches for repairing tubes or tires.

The invalidation request was submitted by Bridgestone based on an earlier trademark with reputation B for tires. According to the company the later mark could create consumer confusion and take advantages of the well-known status of the B mark.

Bridgestone-B-logo-1024x507

Different pieces of evidence were submitted to prove this status. For example, Bridgestone holds 14.6% market share for automobiles tires in the world, and 55.9% in Japan. The company have been using its mark for a myriad of advertising and promotional campaigns for many years including for sponsorship of Olympic games.

This created a strong reputation among the consumers in the country which can be mislead when seeing the SB NAGAMOCHI mark.

The Patent Office agreed and invalidated the later mark.

Source: Masaki MIKAMI