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March 2011 - Intellectual Property. Legal Developments by Norrbom Vinding Law Firm, member of ius laboris.

More articles by this firm.

IBM for computers and M! for magazines. Short word marks are catchy. Now it may become easier to have very short trademarks registered.

Until now, the Danish Patent and Trademark Office has applied a principle of presumption that trademarks consisting of a single character or digit (word marks) are not sufficiently distinctive to qualify for registration. This is because trademarks should not make it impossible for other businesses to market their products.

But the principle of presumption is now on its last legs. The reason is that the EU Court has ruled against a similar principle of presumption in a case about the Greek sign α. Although not a party to the case, the Danish PTO will nevertheless have to change its practice as a result.

New practice
The Danish PTO has therefore announced that, in future, its decisions will be based on the merits of each individual application.

This is in itself a relaxation of practice.

But it does not change the fact that the distinctiveness of the word mark must still be tested. Therefore, the PTO notes on its website that hopeful trademark applicants must expect also in the future that very short word marks will often fail the test. T

he PTO also notes that it will probably be necessary to exempt certain single letters and digits in order to safeguard the interests of other businesses and their need to market products.

Click here to see an earlier news item on one of the many lost cases about short word marks.


Norrbom Vinding notes:
  • that the EU Court’s ruling shows that there must be a test of the trademark’s distinctiveness in each individual case, but

  • that it will hardly significantly affect the Danish PTO's restrictive attitude towards registering very short word marks.

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