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The Average Consumer - legal fiction or reality? A comparative study between European and American trademark law

Hannerstig, Niclas LU (2011) JURM01 20112
Department of Law
Abstract (Swedish)
Inom gemenskapsrätten idag, kännetecknas genomsnittskonsumenten såsom rimligen intelligent och rationell i sitt beslutsfattande. Dessa antaganden formar grunden för ett normativt angreppssätt, vilket gör att domstolar inte behöver använda sig av extern empirisk fakta, för att avgöra huruvida konsumenten uppfattar två varumärken såsom så snarlika, att risk för förväxling föreligger. Genom att tillämpa genomsnittskonsument i egenskap av formella kriterier istället för en fråga om bevisvärdering, uppnås processuell effektivitet och homogenitet. Europeiska domstolar behöver således inte i varje enskilt fall gå närmare in på hur enskildas köpförmåga påverkas. Även om effektivitet och homogenitet uppnås, så följer många osäkerhetsfaktorer med... (More)
Inom gemenskapsrätten idag, kännetecknas genomsnittskonsumenten såsom rimligen intelligent och rationell i sitt beslutsfattande. Dessa antaganden formar grunden för ett normativt angreppssätt, vilket gör att domstolar inte behöver använda sig av extern empirisk fakta, för att avgöra huruvida konsumenten uppfattar två varumärken såsom så snarlika, att risk för förväxling föreligger. Genom att tillämpa genomsnittskonsument i egenskap av formella kriterier istället för en fråga om bevisvärdering, uppnås processuell effektivitet och homogenitet. Europeiska domstolar behöver således inte i varje enskilt fall gå närmare in på hur enskildas köpförmåga påverkas. Även om effektivitet och homogenitet uppnås, så följer många osäkerhetsfaktorer med detta synes sätt. Dels skapar detta ett problem angående förutsebarhet för varumärkesinnehavare då synen på hur konsumenter påverkas av varumärken kan skifta, vidare skapas en ojämn fördelning inom rättegångsstrukturen som vidrör frågetecken angående objektivitet. Då beslut rörande konsumentbeteende fattas på basis av sunt förnuft, istället för empirisk fakta, anser vissa att den sanna uppfattningen av vad konsumenter faktiskt anser aldrig kan avspeglas i de beslut som domstolar i Europa tar.

I denna uppsats, kommer det bl.a. att hävdas att denna brist på precision inom den Europeiska gemenskapsrätten, samt de osäkerheter som detta förmår är resultatet av felaktigheter i den underliggande varumärkesteorin. Dessa felaktigheter föranleder ett antal felaktiga antagande om hur konsumenter upplever varumärken i relation till de beslut som ligger till grund för deras beslut att köpa varor eller tjänster. Vidare, förstärks dessa felaktiga antaganden genom att empirisk fakta utesluts från värderingsprocessen. Med anledning av ovan, föreslås det i denna uppsats att grunden för användning av genomsnittskonsumenten ska utvärderas och problemområden belysas. Vidare föreslås möjliga förutsättningar och förbättringar, som kan öka förutsebarheten och öka jämlikheten inom ramen för den processuella strukturen.

För att uppnå detta mål kommer en komparativ studie följt av en kritisk analys av underliggande varumärkes teori att företas. Det komparativa elementet används för att testa den empiriska metod som används av Federala domstolar i USA. I själva verket kommer detta att fastställa huruvida det är bättre att använda en empirisk faktametod för att dechiffrera konsumenternas uppfattning, eller om denna metod, återföljs av liknande svårigheter såsom den mer normativa Europeiska metoden. Från denna grund, kommer en kritisk analys att följa. Som ett resultat av denna uppsats det kommer det att föreslås olika åtgärder att för att minska ovan angivna osäkerheter. Bl.a. genom t.ex. införandet av ett ytterligt kriterium till den redan fastslagna potentiellt förvirrade genomsnittskonsumenten. (Less)
Abstract
Existing trademark law in both the European Union and the United States, allow courts to enlist the help of a representative consumer, in order determine whether two trademarks are confusingly similar. This ubiquitous figure, which is said to represent the collective minds of the public, is central to the likelihood of confusion analysis, used to appraise the overall likelihood of confusion between two trademarks. Although, doctrinal differences exist in respective jurisdictions, this person represents a collective thought based on variations of the same theoretical foundation.

Under the European regime this representative consumer or (“average consumer”) is characterized on a presumptuous basis, as reasonably intelligent and rational.... (More)
Existing trademark law in both the European Union and the United States, allow courts to enlist the help of a representative consumer, in order determine whether two trademarks are confusingly similar. This ubiquitous figure, which is said to represent the collective minds of the public, is central to the likelihood of confusion analysis, used to appraise the overall likelihood of confusion between two trademarks. Although, doctrinal differences exist in respective jurisdictions, this person represents a collective thought based on variations of the same theoretical foundation.

Under the European regime this representative consumer or (“average consumer”) is characterized on a presumptuous basis, as reasonably intelligent and rational. These assumptions form a normative approach, which enables judiciaries to take an aggravated view of consumers without seeking extrinsic factual support. By applying the doctrine as matter of law, as opposed to a factual matter, procedural efficiency is achieved. Union Courts do not have to indulge in fact finding missions in every potential infringement situation based on confusion. Although efficiency is achieved many uncertainties follow. It does not only fail to provide precision as to the characteristics of this amorphous person, it also rigs the litigation structure unfairly. It is held that the common sense rationale, which judiciaries rely on, may prevent the true perception of consumers from surfacing. As such, under the current doctrine, the average consumer merely signifies the formed expression of judiciaries, and not the public collective. It is argued in this thesis that the doctrine’s lack of precision and transparency under the European regime may be a product of possible defaults in underlying trademark theory, which is emphasized with the exclusion of empirical data. Therefore, this thesis argues for the re-evaluation of the current doctrinal development, and possible improvements to form a more coherent and predictable framework for dealing with these issues.

To achieve this, a comparative and critical analysis of average consumer doctrine is preformed. The comparative element is used to test the empirical approach, which is used by Federal Courts in the United States. In effect, this will establish whether the empirical approach to decipher consumer perception should be preferred, or whether similar issues arise when compared to the European approach. Furthermore, a critical analysis will follow pertaining to underlying trademark theory, and its effects on the doctrinal development and litigation structure. As a result, this thesis will uncover despite seminal doctrinal differences that both current configurations purport equal uncertainties and legal tradeoffs. It will be suggested that to diminish these uncertainties, the doctrine in general should include a fourth person, namely, the non-confused consumer. Additionally, it is also suggested that extrinsic evidence ought to be permitted in the overall likelihood of confusion analysis. (Less)
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author
Hannerstig, Niclas LU
supervisor
organization
course
JURM01 20112
year
type
H3 - Professional qualifications (4 Years - )
subject
keywords
Intellectual property law, average consumer, trademark law, likelihood of confusion
language
English
id
2255010
date added to LUP
2011-12-27 12:45:39
date last changed
2011-12-27 12:45:39
@misc{2255010,
  abstract     = {Existing trademark law in both the European Union and the United States, allow courts to enlist the help of a representative consumer, in order determine whether two trademarks are confusingly similar. This ubiquitous figure, which is said to represent the collective minds of the public, is central to the likelihood of confusion analysis, used to appraise the overall likelihood of confusion between two trademarks. Although, doctrinal differences exist in respective jurisdictions, this person represents a collective thought based on variations of the same theoretical foundation. 

Under the European regime this representative consumer or (“average consumer”) is characterized on a presumptuous basis, as reasonably intelligent and rational. These assumptions form a normative approach, which enables judiciaries to take an aggravated view of consumers without seeking extrinsic factual support. By applying the doctrine as matter of law, as opposed to a factual matter, procedural efficiency is achieved. Union Courts do not have to indulge in fact finding missions in every potential infringement situation based on confusion. Although efficiency is achieved many uncertainties follow. It does not only fail to provide precision as to the characteristics of this amorphous person, it also rigs the litigation structure unfairly. It is held that the common sense rationale, which judiciaries rely on, may prevent the true perception of consumers from surfacing. As such, under the current doctrine, the average consumer merely signifies the formed expression of judiciaries, and not the public collective. It is argued in this thesis that the doctrine’s lack of precision and transparency under the European regime may be a product of possible defaults in underlying trademark theory, which is emphasized with the exclusion of empirical data. Therefore, this thesis argues for the re-evaluation of the current doctrinal development, and possible improvements to form a more coherent and predictable framework for dealing with these issues.            

To achieve this, a comparative and critical analysis of average consumer doctrine is preformed. The comparative element is used to test the empirical approach, which is used by Federal Courts in the United States. In effect, this will establish whether the empirical approach to decipher consumer perception should be preferred, or whether similar issues arise when compared to the European approach. Furthermore, a critical analysis will follow pertaining to underlying trademark theory, and its effects on the doctrinal development and litigation structure. As a result, this thesis will uncover despite seminal doctrinal differences that both current configurations purport equal uncertainties and legal tradeoffs. It will be suggested that to diminish these uncertainties, the doctrine in general should include a fourth person, namely, the non-confused consumer. Additionally, it is also suggested that extrinsic evidence ought to be permitted in the overall likelihood of confusion analysis.},
  author       = {Hannerstig, Niclas},
  keyword      = {Intellectual property law,average consumer,trademark law,likelihood of confusion},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {The Average Consumer - legal fiction or reality? A comparative study between European and American trademark law},
  year         = {2011},
}