CJEU says no to organic trade mark
In early 2008, Groupe Léa Nature applied to register its European trade mark (“SO’BiO ētic”) with the EUIPO. The trade mark related to classes 3 (cleaning preparations and cosmetics) and 25 (clothing, footwear and headgear) for organic products.
In 2008, the company Debonair opposed the trade mark, as it owned two trade marks (“SO…?”) in the same above classes.
In 2010, the EUIPO opposition division dismissed Debonair’s attempt to have Groupe Léa Nature’s trade mark cancelled. Debonair made an appeal to the First Board of Appeal.
The Appeal Board overturned the above decision, stating that there was a likelihood of confusion between the two company’s marks. This spurred Groupe Léa Nature to file an appeal with the EU General Court.
Groupe Léa Nature sought to reverse the decision of the Appeal Board and restore its mark. Since the case had been dismissed, Groupe Léa Nature fought for the case to be returned to the General Court for review. It felt that the Appeal Board had failed to appreciate the distinctive and dominant character of the element “so”. As it held this to be the only common elements in the two marks, it wanted Debonair to pay the costs after the decision was reversed.
In a surprise turn of events for Groupe Léa Nature, the CJEU refused to overturn the previous decision. The CJEU held that the General Court had accurately weighted the differences in both marks.
However, Groupe Léa Nature argued that the General Court had failed, by not adhering to the establish case law when assessing the similarity of the two marks.
Nevertheless, the CJEU reach the judgment that the element of “bio” of the mark held the same importance as “so”. Furthermore, the CJEU found that the General Court had correctly applied the case law when determining whether there was a likelihood of confusion between the two marks.
The CJEU awarded costs to Debonair and the EUIPO.
By Fatima Amedu