25 January 2012

The Boss Of Passing Off


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Two days ago I took this picture in the Serbian town of Subotica.

As you can see, a local entrepreneur is using that very famous brand to promote their own business, obviously consisting in the provision of food and drink.

The funny thing is that Hugo Boss has a trade mark registration in Serbia (albeit not for class 43) and that the Serbian Trade Mark Act protects well-known marks.

While I didn`t feel confused that the fashion brand might have something in common with a provincial restaurant in Serbia, I could not but perceive that the local entrepreneur has undertaken serious efforts to imitate both, the trade mark and the get-up of BOSS.

Thus, do you share my view that his use of the famous mark represents an unfair advantage and is detrimental to said mark`s distinctive character?

17 November 2011

Where Pizza Meets Haute Couture


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Saw this one yesterday in downtown Sofia and could not resist to take a picture and blog on it.

Later I was somewhat surprised to find out that Escada had obtained a Bulgarian registration for their trade mark already in 2003.

Could there be room for a sound dilution claim based on Art 4 (3) of the trade mark directive?

1 February 2011

The Spy Who Loved Her Name


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IMG_9950photo © 2010 zemistor | more info (via: Wylio)

Do you remember the bank that trademarked “Christmas”? Can happen only in Russia, right? Well, the land of Tolstoy, Bakunin and Putin shows once again that it is always good to provide for news relating to intellectual property!

The current case I would like to spend some words on is not as outrages as the “Christmas” one, though it involves a personality who not long ago gained a huge medial publicity.

Like to guess who might that be? Hm, what was this blog article’s name in the first place?

Yes, I can be talking only about Anna Kuschyenko, also known as Chapman! According to the Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, the spy scandal heroine has successfully been granted the right to use her name as a trade mark for the classes 3, 14, 25, 28, 32, 33, 35 and 41. In doing so, Chapman obviously did what many others had already done in the past.

In this respect people have often asked me:

Are personal names registrable as trade marks?

In all generality, yes. While treated as descriptive signs and hence “weak” marks in the US, they are to be assessed exactly the same way as any other prospective trade marks in the European Union.
In other words, both jurisdictions allow the registration of personal names with their respective trade mark offices.

Apparently the same is true also under Russian trade mark law. Nevertheless, there is one thing I don’t really feel kosher about when considering the registrability of the Chapman mark. After all she was accused to have participated in an espionage affair and thus deported back to Russia. I would have classified those circumstances disparaging, had I been appointed to examine Ms Chapman’s application and, would have eventually rejected it. But Russia is different and we all know that. Russia loves its spies and treats them as heroes. Would it be then permissible to ask:

Was the trade mark registration Russia’s payoff to Ms Chapman?

I am afraid we will never figure this one out. In any case she spied in her country’s name, did love its own and succeeded in trademarking it!

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12 January 2011

From Russia with (trade mark) love: a reprise


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Image: “Jing old bells” by Madalena Pestana on Flickr

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About a year ago I blogged on the “Christmas” trade mark that the Russian bank Vostochny Express managed to register. In that post I expressed some doubts as to the registrability of the trade mark in question. Well, I must admit that was really surprised when I found out that Vostochny Express succeeded to defend its trade mark at court in Moscow.

The bank has brought an action before the Moscow Court of Arbitration (a court competent in commercial matters) against another bank, Bank Rossisky Capital, that had used the word “Christmas” on its website. Claimant alleged the use on the website was one in commerce and thus infringing claimant’s rights in the trade mark.

Surprisingly to me, but the court found that defendant’s use was capable of creating confusion between both banks’ products and services. Consequently, the court ordered the defendant to cease using the word “Christmas” in connection with its products and services.

All this would be quite funny if it was not absurd. Like other enterprises, banks also advertise their products and services, especially loans, more extensively during Christmas time. Since the essential function of a trade mark is to identify the origin of product or service, “Christmas” clearly fails to serve as such identifier. It simply cannot distinguish one bank’s business from that of another.

Vostochniy Express’ trade mark registration is definitely amiss and even borders with abuse of law.


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14 January 2010

From Russia with (trade mark) love


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I have always known that Russia and Russians are different. So totally different that they can hardly be compared with other nations’ representatives. And this appears to be true also with respect to their dealings with intellectual property.

According to the Russian newspaper Komersant, Vostochniy Express, a Russian bank, has successfully registered with Rospatent words like

“New Year”, “Christmas”, “Holiday”

as well as derivates thereof as trade marks. Not surprisingly, many banks issue promotional offers specially at Christmas or at year’s end. As a consequence of its trade mark grant however, Vostochniy Express has served such banks with cease and desist notices. The proprietor bank has alternatively offered to license the use of its “trade marks” against payment of license fees.

Vostochniy Express demonstrate they are

A Way Ahead In Making Business With Their IP Assets

This bank’s business drive could, however, be barred since the registration of the “trade marks” in suit has been referred to a board of appeal within Rospatent. Pursuant to the Russian trade mark practitioner Vassily Moiseev, the board of appeal is very likely to vacate Rospatent’s grant as it has frequently done in the past.

In my view Rospatent had to reject the registration as these very words are not really capable of distinguishing the products or services of Vostochniy Express from those of other banks. See whether the board of appeal will deliver a judgment consistent with mine.

 

19 November 2009

CFI rejects "CANNABIS" trade mark’s registration for beverages


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photo © 2006 olga.palma | more info (via: Wylio)

In its judgment delivered today the Court of First Instance dismissed Giampietro Torresan’s appeal against an earlier decision of OHIM‘s Cancellation Division. OHIM’s decision had declared the (previously obtained) registration of the Community trade mark

“CANNABIS” invalid

with respect to goods in Classes 32 (beers) and 33 (alcoholic beverages except beers) of the Nice Agreement. In its decision OHIM found that the trade mark “CANNABIS” was descriptive in terms of Article 7(1)(c) of Regulation No 40/94.Curiously, it was the same OHIM that registered the word sign “CANNABIS” as a Community trade mark for beers, wine and spirits some years ago, namely on 16 April 2003.

However, few weeks thereafter the German Klosterbrauerei Weissenohe GmbH & Co. KG, applied to OHIM to declare the trade mark’s invalidity with regard to Classes 32 and 33. OHIM found in favour of the Germans, Giampietro then appealed and – eventually – lost.

These are the facts. Much more interesting are the findings of the CFI.

The Court pointed out that

“Cannabis” or “Hemp” Had Three Possible Meanings

(1) a textile plant which is subject to very strict legislation as regards the content of it active ingredient (tetrahydrocannabinol: THC); (2) a narcotic which is prohibited by a great number of Member States; and (3) a substance the therapeutic use of which is under discussion.

The Court then pointed out that cannabis, given its very low concentration of THC, was used in the food sector. Equally important, the word “cannabis” was a Latin scientific term which was well known, was present in a number of European Community languages and has had a lot of media coverage. Based on that, the Court opined that the average consumer would perceive the trade mark

“CANNABIS” As A Description

of one of the characteristics of the goods bearing that mark.

The Regulation on Community trade marks prohibits the registration of descriptive signs. Such signs are deemed incapable of fulfilling the indication-of-origin function which forms an integral part of a trade mark. The Court finally went on applying ECJ’s well established authority on the assessment of a mark’s descriptive character that is to be undertaken in relation to the goods for which the mark was registered and in the light of the presumed perception of an average consumer of those goods, who is reasonably well informed and reasonably observant and circumspect (eg Nestle SA vs Mars UK Ltd).

Having read this ruling, I made a quick research using OHIM’s search engine. I sought for registrations containing the

Word Combination “Mary Jane”

and, found 5 matches. Two of them are registered in the Class 32 and one in Class 33.

By the way, what would be the “well informed” and “reasonably observant and circumspect” consumer’s perception of “Mary Jane” on beer or liquor bottles?