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A thousand times no!

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

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A manufacturer of puzzle books could not use the number '1000’ as its trademark because the number could be seen as descriptive of the product. And this is not allowed.

A trademark is not allowed to simply describe the properties of the product because the trademark must be able to distinguish the product from the products of other businesses. This is why a manufacturer of puzzle books was unsuccessful before the EU Court of Justice.
A Polish manufacturer of puzzle books applied to OHIM to have '1000‚Äô registered as a trademark. The application was rejected because, in OHIM‚Äôs view, ‚Äė1000‚Äô could refer, for instance, to the number of puzzles in the books. This meant that '1000' was descriptive.
The General Court reached the same conclusion, and the manufacturer saw no alternative but to go to the EU Court. There, the manufacturer argued that the General Court had mistakenly believed that trademarks consisting of a number must be accompanied by other descriptions to be registrable.
In line with existing case law, the EU Court ruled that in cases concerning trademark registration it is not a barrier in itself if a sign consists of numbers alone. The issue to be considered was therefore if a reasonably well-informed consumer would see ‚Äė1000‚Äô as descriptive of the product.
The EU court said that the number ‚Äė1000' was descriptive in this case and therefore could not be used as a trademark by a manufacturer of puzzle books. In reaching this conclusion, the EU Court took into account that the sign '1000' referred to a quantity which would be seen by the average consumer as descriptive of the product.
The EU Court thus affirmed the decisions of the General Court and OHIM.
Norrbom Vinding notes:
  • that the ruling is in line with Danish case law, where the Danish Supreme Court has previously refused registration by a coffee filter manufacturer of the numbers 202, 206 and 220 for lack of distinctiveness.
The above does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such

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