Tag:graphical representation

The European trade mark reform – Phase 2
To Perform a Technical Function or Not: This is Rubik’s Question.
A Right (Design) Carry-On!

The European trade mark reform – Phase 2

On 1 October 2017, the second part of the European trade mark reform entered into force, completing the implementation of Regulation (EU) 2015/2424 amending the Community trade mark regulation (EUTMR).

Taking a step back, this is in fact the last part of a much longer reform process that began about 10 years after the adoption of the EU trade mark system in 1996. In 2008, the European Commission published the Communication on an industrial property rights strategy for Europe with the intent to review the current practice and bring the European trade mark system to the next level. Subsequently, in depth studies, a public consultation and an impact assessment followed until the approval, in December 2015, of a new amending Regulation and a Directive to harmonise the laws of Member States.

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To Perform a Technical Function or Not: This is Rubik’s Question.

After the CJEU decision in case C-30/15 P, fans of three-dimensional trade marks will be wondering if the opportunity to register them is as straightforward as it appears from the recent reform of the Regulation No. 207/2009.

For 10 years, Simba Toys and Seven Towns have been involved in the Rubik’s cube saga, which began in 1999, when the three-dimensional sign reproducing the popular Hungarian toy was registered as a Community trade mark.

The application for a declaration of invalidity filed in 2006 by Simba Toys was based mainly on the infringement of Article 7(1)(e)(ii) of Regulation No 40/94, which prevents a trade mark consisting exclusively of the shape of goods which is necessary to obtain a technical result to be registered.

The EUIPO Cancellation Division as well as the Board of Appeal and the General Court rejected the arguments of the German firm on the grounds that the essential characteristics of the sign at issue are a cube and a grid structure on each surface of the cube and that they do not perform any technical function.

Hence, the appellant’s argument was rejected because the rotating capability of the lattices did not result from the shape presented, but from the invisible internal mechanism which was not part of the graphical representation filed in the trade mark application.

As often happens, the above decisions have been overturned by the CJEU. In particular, the approach of the lower courts was found to be too narrow as they did not take into account the additional elements relating to the function of the actual goods in question.

Lastly, the court held that not taking into account the rotating capability of the cube would extend the trade mark protection to any other kind of puzzle with a similar shape. On the other hand, the technical function behind the cube falls within the scope of Article 7(1)(e)(ii), which precludes the granting of a permanent monopoly on technical solutions. Therefore, in this case it would be more appropriate to consider a patent protection as it has a limited life unlike trademarks.

In conclusion, while the Rubik brand will continue to ensure its exclusivity through other trademarks, copyright, passing off and unfair competition protection, this case made it clear that an effective access to the registration of unconventional trade marks remains as uncertain as the interpretation of Article 7(1)(e)(ii).

By: Serena Totino and Michał Ziółkowski

A Right (Design) Carry-On!

By Briony Pollard and Serena Totino

Designers will be disappointed by the recent Supreme Court decision in the long running Trunki (suit) case between Magmatic and PMS International, which finally put to bed whether surface decoration could and should form part of the global comparison test when assessing infringement of a Registered Community Design (RCD).

In 2013 Magmatic Ltd., manufacturer of ‘Trunki’, the ride-on suitcases for children, attempted to enforce its RCD against PMS International Group plc, importer and seller of the ‘Kiddee case’ in the UK and Germany.

Both Trunki and Kiddee cases are designed to look like animals, both have four wheels, a clasp at the front and a saddle-shaped top making the cases easy for children to ride on. The differences between the cases are largely limited to colour and the ‘protuberances’, which look like horns in the Trunki case and antennae or ears in the Kiddee case.

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