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Too Good to be Protected: The exclusion of shapes that give substantial value to the goods from trade mark protection

Wüeggertz, Caroline LU (2010) JURM01 20101
Department of Law
Abstract (Swedish)
Enligt varumärkesrätten inom Europeiska Unionen (EU) är alla kännetecken som kan uppfattas med något av våra fem sinnen möjliga att registrera som varumärken om de kan återges grafiskt, samt kan särskilja ett företags varor och tjänster från andra företags.

I Artikel 2 Rådets första direktiv 89/104/EEG av den 21 december 1988 om tillnärmningen av medlemsstaternas varumärkeslagar (VD) samt Artikel 4 Rådets förordning (EG) nr 40/94 av den 20 december 1993 om gemenskapsvarumärken (VF) är formen på en vara eller dess utstyrsel möjlig att skydda inom varumärkesrätten om de uppfyller de i lagen uppställda kraven. Rättspraxis från Europeiska gemenskapernas domstol (EG-domstolen) har påvisat att konsumenter inte är vana att uppfatta formen av... (More)
Enligt varumärkesrätten inom Europeiska Unionen (EU) är alla kännetecken som kan uppfattas med något av våra fem sinnen möjliga att registrera som varumärken om de kan återges grafiskt, samt kan särskilja ett företags varor och tjänster från andra företags.

I Artikel 2 Rådets första direktiv 89/104/EEG av den 21 december 1988 om tillnärmningen av medlemsstaternas varumärkeslagar (VD) samt Artikel 4 Rådets förordning (EG) nr 40/94 av den 20 december 1993 om gemenskapsvarumärken (VF) är formen på en vara eller dess utstyrsel möjlig att skydda inom varumärkesrätten om de uppfyller de i lagen uppställda kraven. Rättspraxis från Europeiska gemenskapernas domstol (EG-domstolen) har påvisat att konsumenter inte är vana att uppfatta formen av en vara som förmedlare av ett kommersiellt ursprung och därför ställs det i praktiken högre krav på ett sådant kännetecken för att det ska anses vara särskiljande – formen måste avvika i betydande grad från vad som är normen eller sedvanan inom den berörda marknaden. Om formen av en vara eller dess varuutstyrsel inte anses ha särskiljningsförmåga vid skapandet, kan formen genom sin användning uppnå särskiljningsförmåga i enlighet med Artikel 3(3) VD samt Artikel 7(3) VF. Emellertid ska formen på en vara eller dess utstyrsel nekas registrering enligt Artikel 3(1)(e)(iii) VD samt Artikel 7(1)(e)(iii) VF om detta kännetecken anses bestå av en form som ger varan ett betydande värde. Det är inte heller möjligt att ge varumärkesskydd till en form som efter inarbetning blivit särskiljande om denna form ger varan ett betydande värde.

Det bakomliggande syfte till det preliminära registreringshindert i Artikel 3(1)(e)(iii) VD samt Artikel 7(1)(e)(iii) VF, är att säkerställa att former som det finns ett konkurensrättsligt frihållningsbehov av ska vara tillgängliga för alla konkurrenter att använda. Vidare är ett varumärkesskydd mer konkurrensbegränsande än övriga immaterialrätter eftersom detta inte är tisdbegränsat.

Men vad är då ”betydande värde”? Vad för slags värde är det som avses i regeln? Ekonomiskt eller estetiskt? Dessa frågor har sedan tillkomsten av VD och VF lämnats obesvarade av EG-domstolen och såleds finns inga prejudikat från den högsta domstolen inom EU hur man ska tyda och tillämpa regeln. Mot bakgrund av det nämnda har syftet med detta examensarbete varit att undersöka om förarbeten till VD och VF, rättspraxis samt riktlinjer som tillkommit på nations- samt gemenskapsnivå, påvisar några gemensamma nämnare om hur undantaget för former som ger betydande värde kommit att tolkas samt tillämpas av domstolar och registreringsmyndigheter.

Vad som framkommer i analysen av dessa rättskällor är att förarbetena till VD, VF och Varumärkeslagen (1960:664), samt de riktlinjer för registrering av varmärken som används av registreringsmyndigheten i Förenade Kungadömmet (FK) och vid Kontoret för harmonisering inom den inre marknaden (OHIM), ger ingen vägledning som är klargörande om hur undantaget ska tolkas samt tillämpas. Dock påvisar rättspraxis från Överklagandenämnden vid OHIM, Förstainstansrätten samt nationella domstolar i Sverige och FK att det finns gemensamma nämnare för hur detta undantag har kommit att tolkas. De omständigheter som tagits i beaktande vid bedömningen i rättspraxis är hur priset på varan förhåller sig till priset på likartade varor tillgängliga på den relevanta marknaden, vidare om den aktuella formen i jämförelse med likvärdiga varors former avviker från normen på marknaden, tillika om konsumenterna uppfattar formen som ett kännetecken eller om de enbart ser formen som något som ger värde till varan, och slutligen hur tillverkaren själv uppfattar formen.

Vid tillämpning av dessa omständigheter har rättspraxis påvisat att undantaget har kommit att gälla främst i förhållande till former som beaktats bestå av klassisk eller retro-design, såsom formen hos Dualits brödrost, ornamentationen applicerad på bestickserien Olga samt formen på en av Bang & Olufsens högtalare. Även om rättspraxis påvisar gemensamma nämnare ges ingen närmare vägledning vad som krävs av formen i sig för att värdet ska uppkomma till ”betydande”. Tillika ifrågasätts den logiska grunden till undantaget sedan rättspraxis påvisar att det enbart är formen på varor som är välkända och allmänt uppskattade som fångas av undantaget, medan former som anses vara minder attraktiva eller bestå av usel design inte nekas varumärkesskydd om formen uppfyller de i lagen uppställda kraven. (Less)
Abstract
Pursuant to the trade mark law of the European Community, all signs that can be perceived by any of our five senses as well as being graphically represented and capable of distinguishing the products of one undertaking from those of another undertaking, can be protected as a trade mark. In Article 2 of the First Council Directive 89/104/EEC of 21 December 1988 to approximate the laws of the Member States relating to trade marks (CTMD) and Article 4 of the Council Regulation (EC) No 40/94 of 20 December 1993 on the Community trade mark (CTMR) it is stated that the shape of a good or its packaging can be eligible to trade mark protection if the shape as such fulfils the requirements stipulated in law. Case law of the European Court of... (More)
Pursuant to the trade mark law of the European Community, all signs that can be perceived by any of our five senses as well as being graphically represented and capable of distinguishing the products of one undertaking from those of another undertaking, can be protected as a trade mark. In Article 2 of the First Council Directive 89/104/EEC of 21 December 1988 to approximate the laws of the Member States relating to trade marks (CTMD) and Article 4 of the Council Regulation (EC) No 40/94 of 20 December 1993 on the Community trade mark (CTMR) it is stated that the shape of a good or its packaging can be eligible to trade mark protection if the shape as such fulfils the requirements stipulated in law. Case law of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has noted that consumers are not in the habit of making assumptions about the commercial origin of a good based on its shape as such. Subsequently, a trade mark consisting of the shape as such has to deviate substantially from the norm or custom on the relevant market to have a distinctive character. If the shape lacks an inherited distinctive character, the shape can acquire distinctive character by the use made of it, in accordance with Article 3(3) CTMD. However, if the shape gives substantial value to the good, the shape falls foul of the preliminary ground for refusal in Article 3(1)(e)(iii) CTMD and thus precluded from trade mark protection. Moreover, this ground for refusal cannot be circumvented by proving that the shape as such has acquired a distinctive character for the requested good.

The rationale of Article 3(1)(e)(iii) CTMD is to ensure effective competition in the market by keeping certain shapes free for all undertakings to use. In addition, a trade mark right limits competition to a greater extent than compared to other intellectual property rights since it is perpetual.

But what is “substantial value”? What value is to be taken into consideration? Economic or aesthetic? These questions have never been put before the ECJ and thus there is no case law from the highest court within the European Community on how to interpret and apply the preliminary ground for refusal. In the light of the aforementioned, the purpose of this Master Thesis has been to investigate if the preparatory works of the CTMD and CTMR, case law and examination guidelines emanating at national and Community level respectively, shows any common denominators on how “shape that gives substantial value to the good” has been interpreted and applied by courts and authorities.

From the analysis of the mentioned sources of law, it is shown that the preparatory works of the CTMD, CTMR and the Swedish Trade Mark Act (Varumärkeslagen (1960:664)) together with the examination guidelines of the Intellectual Propert Office (IPO) of the United Kingdom (UK) and of the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (Trade Marks and Designs) (OHIM) gives no particular guidance on how the preclusion should be interpreted or applied. Nevertheless, in the case law from the Board of Appeal, the Court of First Instance as well as case law from national courts of Sweden and UK, some common denominators in the line of reasoning of the individual courts were identified: the price of the good was compared to other goods on the relevant market, the shape of the good was compared to other available shapes to see whether or not it deviated from the norm, how the consumer perceived the function of the shape to be and finally, how the manufacturer itself perceived the function of the shape

What can be deduced from case law is that the shapes falling foul of Article 3(1)(e)(iii) CTMD has been shapes consisting of classic or retro-styled design, like the shape of a toaster from Dualit, the ornamentation applied to the cutlery in the Olga-series as well as the shape of a loudspeaker from Bang & Olufsen. Even though case law presents common denominators, no further guidance is given on what is required by the shape as such for the value to amount to the magnitude “substantial”. Furthermore, the rationale of the preliminary obstacle is questioned as unreasonable since case law shows that it is only the shape of goods whose design is reputable and commonly appreciated that falls foul of the preclusion. In other words, shapes that are less attractive or comprise of poor design are not rejected trade mark protection in so far as they fulfil the requirements stipulated by trade mark law. (Less)
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author
Wüeggertz, Caroline LU
supervisor
organization
course
JURM01 20101
year
type
H3 - Professional qualifications (4 Years - )
subject
keywords
Förmögenhetsrätt, EG-rätt, Immaterialrätt
language
English
id
1628104
date added to LUP
2010-07-13 17:48:52
date last changed
2010-07-13 17:48:52
@misc{1628104,
  abstract     = {Pursuant to the trade mark law of the European Community, all signs that can be perceived by any of our five senses as well as being graphically represented and capable of distinguishing the products of one undertaking from those of another undertaking, can be protected as a trade mark. In Article 2 of the First Council Directive 89/104/EEC of 21 December 1988 to approximate the laws of the Member States relating to trade marks (CTMD) and Article 4 of the Council Regulation (EC) No 40/94 of 20 December 1993 on the Community trade mark (CTMR) it is stated that the shape of a good or its packaging can be eligible to trade mark protection if the shape as such fulfils the requirements stipulated in law. Case law of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has noted that consumers are not in the habit of making assumptions about the commercial origin of a good based on its shape as such. Subsequently, a trade mark consisting of the shape as such has to deviate substantially from the norm or custom on the relevant market to have a distinctive character. If the shape lacks an inherited distinctive character, the shape can acquire distinctive character by the use made of it, in accordance with Article 3(3) CTMD. However, if the shape gives substantial value to the good, the shape falls foul of the preliminary ground for refusal in Article 3(1)(e)(iii) CTMD and thus precluded from trade mark protection. Moreover, this ground for refusal cannot be circumvented by proving that the shape as such has acquired a distinctive character for the requested good.

The rationale of Article 3(1)(e)(iii) CTMD is to ensure effective competition in the market by keeping certain shapes free for all undertakings to use. In addition, a trade mark right limits competition to a greater extent than compared to other intellectual property rights since it is perpetual.

But what is “substantial value”? What value is to be taken into consideration? Economic or aesthetic? These questions have never been put before the ECJ and thus there is no case law from the highest court within the European Community on how to interpret and apply the preliminary ground for refusal. In the light of the aforementioned, the purpose of this Master Thesis has been to investigate if the preparatory works of the CTMD and CTMR, case law and examination guidelines emanating at national and Community level respectively, shows any common denominators on how “shape that gives substantial value to the good” has been interpreted and applied by courts and authorities.

From the analysis of the mentioned sources of law, it is shown that the preparatory works of the CTMD, CTMR and the Swedish Trade Mark Act (Varumärkeslagen (1960:664)) together with the examination guidelines of the Intellectual Propert Office (IPO) of the United Kingdom (UK) and of the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (Trade Marks and Designs) (OHIM) gives no particular guidance on how the preclusion should be interpreted or applied. Nevertheless, in the case law from the Board of Appeal, the Court of First Instance as well as case law from national courts of Sweden and UK, some common denominators in the line of reasoning of the individual courts were identified: the price of the good was compared to other goods on the relevant market, the shape of the good was compared to other available shapes to see whether or not it deviated from the norm, how the consumer perceived the function of the shape to be and finally, how the manufacturer itself perceived the function of the shape

What can be deduced from case law is that the shapes falling foul of Article 3(1)(e)(iii) CTMD has been shapes consisting of classic or retro-styled design, like the shape of a toaster from Dualit, the ornamentation applied to the cutlery in the Olga-series as well as the shape of a loudspeaker from Bang & Olufsen. Even though case law presents common denominators, no further guidance is given on what is required by the shape as such for the value to amount to the magnitude “substantial”. Furthermore, the rationale of the preliminary obstacle is questioned as unreasonable since case law shows that it is only the shape of goods whose design is reputable and commonly appreciated that falls foul of the preclusion. In other words, shapes that are less attractive or comprise of poor design are not rejected trade mark protection in so far as they fulfil the requirements stipulated by trade mark law.},
  author       = {Wüeggertz, Caroline},
  keyword      = {Förmögenhetsrätt,EG-rätt,Immaterialrätt},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Too Good to be Protected: The exclusion of shapes that give substantial value to the goods from trade mark protection},
  year         = {2010},
}