In its judgment of June 16, 2015, the OLG Hamm (Higher Regional Court of Hamm) ruled in favour of the French manufacturer of the original handbags in a case concerning trademark law (Az.: 4 U 32/14).
GRP Rainer Lawyers and Tax Advisors in Cologne, Berlin, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart and London - www.grprainer.com/en conclude: A retailer from Dortmund offered its customers handbags that were confusingly similar in appearance to the original models of a French manufacturer; at least that was the view of the French company, which subsequently sued for an injunction and damages.
While the Company was unsuccessful at first instance, it went on to achieve success before the OLG Hamm. The 4th Civil Division considered the bags sold by the retailer to be anti-competitive counterfeits of the original handbags. The products bore a high degree of similarity when it came to key features such as their shape, design and colours, it being said that they were virtually identical in these aspects. Differences in detail could not hide this fact.
The Court therefore held that there was a high likelihood of confusion for the average customer, stating that this was not overcome by the large differences in price between the original and counterfeit products. This could result in consumers assuming that the latter were low-price models or alternatively a licensed product. All in all, customers were said to be being misled as to the origin of the bags, which is why the OLG Hamm prohibited any further sales of the counterfeit handbags and ordered the retailer to pay damages. The ruling is not yet final.
Trademarks are of great value to businesses. The more well-know a trademark is, the higher its estimated value. It is crucial to protect trademarks in order to prevent third parties from taking commercial advantage of their success and potentially emerging as competitors. This is also particularly true in the case of businesses that operate internationally. In these instances, the trademark rights need to be extended beyond national boundaries. If trademark rights are infringed, it may be possible for damages claims to be submitted.
On the other hand, it is also important to ensure that existing trademark rights are not infringed when registering a trademark. Businesses can turn to lawyers who are competent in the field of trademark law for support.