IP in pole position in 2021

12 Jan 2021

You wait ages for a bus and then … not quite the London omnibus, but when it comes to the (broad) world of motoring, we have a podium full of recent judgments in respect of intellectual property (IP) rights to look at.
No chivalry in these chevrons

In October of last year, the French courts banned sales of Volvo’s Polestar brand for at least six months owing to the ‘similarities’ between Polestar’s logo and Citroen’s.

Generally, in order to be considered confusingly similar, trade marks must share very close similarities judged across three categories – aural, visual and conceptual – and be registered for similar goods and/or services.

Whilst it is true that both logos above make use of two chevrons and are undoubtedly used in relation to cars, it would appear that the French courts took the view that any two-chevroned device would be too confusingly similar to Citroen’s to be allowed – even if said chevrons are shaded differently and pointing in completely different directions.

Interestingly this objection was taken through the national courts rather than the EU scheme for the protection of trade marks; it may be that French national law provides its judges with a wider latitude for comparing marks.

Clearly the French are determined to protect this national brand with the same détermination as they do Champagne.
Time(piece) stands still

In November Lewis Hamilton lost his bid to register LEWIS HAMILTON as an EU trade mark for watches. The Swiss watch maker Hamilton International successfully prevented his application, and defended a retaliatory swipe at its own registration for HAMILTON.

He fell into a trap that has caught previous celebratory registrations – he does not have an automatic right to register his surname in the face of pre-existing rights. In contrast, the watch maker was found to have a (mostly) valid trade mark registration for luxury watches that have been in production since 1892.

Perhaps SIR LEWIS could be the alternative brand for the young knight?
Putting the brakes on

In December the UK Court of Appeal ruled that car-maker Bentley could not use the word BENTLEY on its UK clothing range.

After a lengthy ‘David and Goliath’ battle, a Manchester-based clothing company - also Bentley - succeeded in stopping the luxury car maker from infringing its clothing-related BENTLEY UK trade marks, which it has held since 1982.

Whilst the car manufacturer can continue to brand clothing related goods with its WING device, it can no longer be accompanied by the word BENTLEY.

‘Goliath’ may still be considering a further appeal, but brand-owners seeking to expand their brand past their origins should take note: a thorough availability search to warn against potential stumbling blocks is always advised before moving into new territories.

Please get in touch if you’re looking for advice on intellectual property matters.

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