20. Nov 18

EGC: A word mark consisting of two letters can be registered as an EU trade mark

It is possible even for a word mark consisting solely of two letters to be registered as an EU trade mark. This was confirmed by the EGC in rulings from 24 April 2018 (Az.: T-207/17 and T-208/17).

We at the commercial law firm GRP Rainer Rechtsanwälte note that commercial symbols need to be sufficiently distinct from the products and services of other providers in order for them to be capable of being registered as a trade mark and to benefit from the protection that comes with trade mark registration. The General Court of the European Union (EGC) has now ruled that it is possible for a word mark to have the required distinctive character even if it consists of only two letters.

A US company had successfully applied to register a word mark made up of two letters in conjunction with a figurative mark with the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) as an EU trade mark for various goods and services, including printers and cartridges. A Polish company requested that this mark be declared invalid, arguing that it was descriptive and lacked distinctive character. The petition was rejected by the EUIPO and the claim dismissed by the EGC.

The line of reasoning employed by the Polish company bringing the claim, i.e. that it is especially common in the field of technology for short combinations of letters to be used as descriptions for products and services, failed to convince. The EGC held that a mark is not considered to only have descriptive character simply because it consists of two letters. It found that the contested combination of letters is not often used and nor is it perceived as a designation that lacks distinctive character. The mark was also said to serve as an indication of the origin of the products to the relevant audience. Moreover, the plaintiff had failed to demonstrate that at the time of the mark’s registration another business made use of similar or identical marks to market their products. The Court therefore concluded that the registered EU trade mark need not be declared invalid.

Trade marks are of considerable value to businesses because they give rise to a high degree of brand recognition among consumers. Consequently, trade mark protection is also important. However, before a commercial mark can be registered as a trade mark, it needs to be assessed whether the necessary requirements for registration have been met and whether or not rights associated with existing trade marks would be infringed. Lawyers who are experienced in the field of intellectual property law can advise on matters relating to trade mark registration and protection.

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