In its ruling of February 24, the General Court of the European Union (EGC) rejected a legal action brought by a well-known soft drinks manufacturer to register a bottle without fluting as a Community trademark (T-411/14).
GRP Rainer Lawyers and Tax Advisors in Cologne, Berlin, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart and London conclude: The soft drinks manufacturer had already applied in December 2011 to have a contoured bottle without fluting, including glass and plastic bottles, registered as a Community trademark at the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM). However, the OHIM dismissed this application in March 2014.
The OHIM reasoned that the bottle was not sufficiently distinctive vis-à-vis other manufacturers’ products and therefore could not be registered as a Community trademark. It also dismissed the soft drinks manufacturer’s objection that the bottle represented an extension of its established bottle model with fluting.
The soft drinks manufacturer subsequently filed a legal action with the General Court of the European Union, only for this to fail as well. The EGC confirmed that the bottle did not possess any features that differentiated it from other manufacturers’ bottles. It went on to say that it would not be possible for consumers to distinguish the soft drinks manufacturer’s bottles from those of other firms. Thus, it was said that the product lacked the necessary distinctiveness that is required for it to be registered as a Community trademark. The Court stated that it also could not be proven that it had since acquired this distinctive character in the eyes of consumers. For this reason, the EGC dismissed the action.
In the context of trademark law, it is important to draw a distinction between registering a mark for a national market and Community trademarks that are valid throughout the European Union. Registering a sign or symbol as a trademark is vital for businesses seeking to prevent competitors profiting from their products.
Trademarks bolster brand recognition among consumers, which is why they are of considerable value to businesses. Having said that, it is important to be well prepared when registering a trademark. Moreover, a trademark is not allowed to infringe the rights of third parties. Businesses concerned can turn to lawyers who are competent in the field of trademark law to provide assistance and enforce or fend off claims in the event that trademark violations occur.
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