Trade mark re-filing and bad faith – Go directly to Jail. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200

Hasbro Inc. (Hasbro), owner of the well-loved board game Monopoly, suffered a defeat on 22 July 2019, before the EUIPO Board of Appeal in relation to the MONOPOLY trade mark. The EU registration for the MONOPOLY trade mark was partially invalidated as it was found that Hasbro had acted in bad faith when filing the application as part of a ‘trade mark re-filing’ programme.

Background
Hasbro applied to register the trade mark MONOPOLY for goods and services in Classes 9, 16, 28 and 41 of the Nice Classification. The application was published on 9 August 2010 and the mark was registered on 25 March 2011. Kreativini Dogadaji d.o.o (KD) filed an application for invalidation of the trademark in 2015, arguing that it had been registered in bad faith on the basis that the mark was a repeat filing of three identical earlier trade mark registrations for MONOPOLY.

Acting in bad faith
The EUTM Regulation states that a trade mark shall be declared invalid where the applicant acted in bad faith at the time of filing the application for the trade mark. However, EU trade mark law does not provide a definitive clarification of bad faith and ‘bad faith’ is not defined in the EUTM Directive or Regulation. The most notable case from the CJEU dealing with bad faith is the Lindt Goldhase-case (C-529/07) which sets out three areas of consideration:

  1. the applicant knows that a third party is using, in at least one member state, an identical/similar sign for an identical/similar product or service for which the registration is sought
  2. the applicant’s intention of preventing that third party from using the sign, and
  3. the degree of legal protection enjoyed by the third party’s sign and by the sign for which registration is sought.

Nonetheless, these factors are only examples and are not exhaustive, ‘bad faith’ cannot be restrained to a limited set of circumstances.

Findings of Board of Appeal
The Board of Appeal found that Hasbro had a dishonest intention at the time of filing the contested EUTM on the basis that Hasbro had previously filed and successfully registered MONOPOLY as an EUTM on three previous occasions. This dishonest intention was found because Hasbro had repeated filings in effect to circumvent the legal risk of removal due to non-use after five years. Although Hasbro claimed it had been adding more goods and services with each subsequent re-filing, the Board of Appeal did not deem it an acceptable excuse. The Board therefore invalidated the MONOPOLY mark for all goods and services identical or similar to those covered by the earlier trade marks.

The key takeaways
Hasbro did try to argue that their re-filing tactic was common practice in maintaining ownership of a trade mark, which it is, but the decision highlights that a tactics popularity does not equate to acceptability or legality. Brand owners should carefully consider the risk of invalidation or opposition on the basis of bad faith when filing future trade mark applications for existing brands.

By Niall Lavery and Simon Casinader

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