22. Aug 17

Depiction of a protected trademark on the site map for a fair not a trademark violation

Merely using a third-party’s protected trademark on the site map for a fair does not constitute a violation of trademark law. That was the verdict of the Landgericht (LG) Köln [Regional Court of Cologne] in its ruling of March 7, 2017.

Trademark violations can entail severe penalties. That being said, we at the commercial law firm GRP Rainer Rechtsanwälte note that it is not the case that every time someone makes use of a third-party trademark this automatically constitutes a trademark violation. This is clear from a recent ruling of the Landgericht Köln (Az.: 33 O 116/16).

In the present case, a company had not only included the layout of its own fair stand on the site plan to said fair but also sketched in the stall of its competitor bringing the legal action by using the latter’s brand logo. The rival firm was not okay with this and sued for an injunction as well as payment of warning costs, arguing that its trademark rights had been violated. It further claimed that the site map ought to be viewed as an advertising medium in relation to which the defendant had wanted to exploit the plaintiff’s brand recognition to present itself as being on par as a competitor. The plaintiff stated that this gave the impression that there was an agreement or some form of cooperation between the two companies.

The LG Köln dismissed the claim, ruling that the use of a mark on a site map to describe the location of a fair stand did not represent its use as a trademark and furthermore did not constitute an attempt to exploit the plaintiff’s reputation.

The Court held that violating a trademark presupposes that the infringed mark has been used as a trademark in the course of business. It went on to say that while this condition had been met due to the logo’s use in the site map, the logo had neither been used as a trademark nor, in particular, as a reference to the goods or services of the company that had made use of the logo, with the Court ruling that there was no direct reference to the protected classes of goods that were being marketed at the fair stalls. The LG Köln also noted that the inclusion of various trademarks on the site map made it clear that they stemmed from different companies. Moreover, it was said that the clientele that was being targeted by the site map would not make a connection between the two companies.

Lawyers who are experienced in the field of intellectual property law can advise companies on all issues pertaining to trademark law.

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