Christian Louboutin's Red Shoe Soles are a valid Trademark.

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According to a recent decision by the Court of Justice, the red color of the Christian Louboutin shoe sole is a mark of position and not a mere form and as such constitutes a valid right of property.

This is the decision rendered by the EU Court of Justice, after the French maison had sued the Dutch company Van Haren for selling women's shoes with high heels and red soles.

The Dutch company in 2012 had started selling the "5th avenue by Halle Berry" model - and was sued by Louboutin for counterfeiting. Van Haren defended itself by invoking the "nullity" of the Louboutin brand, appealing to the fact that "the EU Directive on trademarks lists several grounds for invalidity to registration, in particular, with respect to signs consisting exclusively of the shape that gives a substantial value to the product ".

The decision c-163/16 establishes instead that the "protection" of the Louboutin brand red sole "does not concern a specific shape of high-heeled shoe sole (which would not be protected as a EU trademark), as the description of said mark expressly indicates that the outline of the shoe is not part of the mark, but only serves to highlight the position of the red color to which the registration refers. The Court also added that a trademark cannot be considered to be "exclusively from the shape where the main object of this sign is a color specified by an internationally recognized identification code".

The fashion house speaks of a "Victory for the Maison Christian Louboutin" because "the protection of the Christian Louboutin red sole brand is strengthened by the European Court of Justice". According to the company today's ruling in Luxembourg "has confirmed that the legal regime that governs the shape trademarks does not apply to the 'red sole' of Christian Louboutin", which is on the contrary "a position mark, as it has supported the Maison for many years ".

Surprise Decision on Steve Jobs Trademark.

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The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) has upheld its prior decision to grant the registration of trademark STEVE JOBS, in the name of two Neapolitan brothers, Vincenzo and Giacomo Barbato.

The trademark  was not only for STEVE JOBS, but also for a stylization, and a very particular letter J, that likely reminds consumers of another company’s logotype.

The Neapolitan brothers noticed that Apple had neglected to register its founder’s name as a trademark and, unwilling to let this opportunity go by,  registered the trademark as shown above before the EUIPO (Registration No. 011041861), in International Classes 9, 18, 25, 38 and 42.

After noticing this, Apple Inc. attacked this registration before the EUIPO, arguing that the letter J was a copy of Apple Inc.’s own apple device, with a very similar leaf, and a bite taken off it, as shown here:

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After years of arguments, the EUIPO ruled in favor of the Barbato brothers, arguing that letter J is not edible, and consequently there is no relation between the bitten apple of the technological company and the “bitten” J of the Italian brothers.

Consequently, the registration was sustained, and there are now clothes being sold under the STEVE JOBS trademark. The trademark owners have also indicated that they would eventually be interested in selling electronic devices with this trademark and, with the Class 9 protection, this is very likely to happen.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to foresee how a company or market will develop and these situations cannot always be avoided, but it is important to note that comprehensive planning, and to proactively protect through trademark registration those terms important to a company.

Note: Trademark STEVE JOBS was also applied for before the USPTO (Serial No. 79141888), but rejected by said institution.

The German Battle for the Balck Friday Trademark.

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In 2013, a trade mark application for Black Friday was filed in Germany. Today, the German trade mark is registered for Super Union Holdings Ltd., Hong Kong which has licensed the trade mark “Black Friday” to Black Friday GmbH, a company based in Vienna.

Since 2016, Super Union Holdings Ltd. has started to attack companies using the term Black Friday by sending warnings, such as the US e-commerce marketplace Groupon in 2016, as media reported. Another party concerned is a German entrepreneur who hosts the domain black-friday.de, a platform offering Black Friday deals.

In 2017, Super Union Holdings Ltd. sued Amazon for its use of the sign „Black Friday“ in Germany by raising, inter alia, forbearance and damage claims („Black Friday“ wird Fall für die Gerichte, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, November 6, 2017).

Of course, some companies, affected by the attacks of Super Union Holdings Ltd., have started to fire back. It is no surprise that there are more than twelve pending cancellation actions against the German trademark Black Friday. In addition, just recently a court in Düsseldorf / Germany has issued a preliminary injunction against Super Union Holdings Ltd. and its licensee Black Friday GmbH to refrain, inter alia, from claiming against clients of the operator of the aforementioned website black-friday.de, that the use of “Black Friday” in an ad is a trade mark infringement.

In Germany, the registration of a trade mark can be cancelled on request of any third party if it has been registered despite absolute grounds for refusal, e.g. if the mark is descriptive or does constitute an indication which needs to be kept freely available. So, what is your opinion?

Hendrix vs Hendrix

Experience Hendrix, a subsidiary of Janie Handrix, who owns the rights to all the entire estate of the guitarist and most famous brother Jimi, sued Leon Hendrix and his partner Pitsicalis for breach of copyright and trademark. In fact, Leon and Pitsicalis would illegally used some of the many Experience’s trademarks (the signature and the images of the face and bust of Jimi) to trade marijuana cigarettes and alcoholic beverages. But the battles for the commercial use of the Jimi’s name are going back in time. In 2015, the Washington District Court had ruled on the matter, forbidding Leon and Pitsicalis to use images of the musician. In addition, in January 2017, the District Court of Georgia declared illegal the use of the words "Jimi" and "Hendrix" on their websites, social media and online platforms. The lawsuit filed in March 2017 in front of the Court of New York by the Experience Hendrix declared illegal, for infringement, also the use of the name "Purple Haze" in the sale of marijuna cigarettes and T-shirts. Purple Haze, in fact, is a song written in 1967 by Jimi Handrix. Experience Hendrix has requested injunctive relief, the elimination from the market of goods violating the trademark’s right and the relatives damages. On the other hand, Thomas Osinski, Pitsicalis and Leon Hendrix’s lawyer, said that "Experience Hendrix has long known long of my clients’ products and it brings this suit only to tarnish and interfere with the lawful and correct Leon’s businesses, which respects Jimi Hendrix’s legacy." Furthermore, Osinski, regarding the content of the claim, said that, although previous rulings have excluded Leon Hendrix and his family from Jimi’s music catalog and denied the possibility to use the trademarks created by Experience Hendrix, nothing prevents Leon and his partner to sell other merchandise Hendrix-related. Who knows how the Court will fix this new family dispute.

Cavalli vs Cavalli

The court of Catania has sentenced Roberto Cavalli to pay the costs of proceedings in the trial against Mrs. Luciana Cavalli, a craftswoman, producer of shoes in Sicily.

The famous Florentine designer, six years ago, had sued his namesake for the misuse of“Cavalli” brand.

It doesn’t matter thatthe Sicilian designer’s surname is actually Cavalli and that her brand exists even before Mr. Robert’s: in his opinion, this name is used out of turn and it represents a case of unfair competition. This is why Roberto Cavalli asked the judge to ascertain an economic damage against his company and to establish a compensation, calculated in 10,000 Euros per day of use, under Article 2600 of Italian Civil Code.

But the Court has rejected the requests made by the complainant and, as Luciana Cavalli’s lawyer says, the judge has awarded the good faith and the continuous use of the trademark “Cavalli” by the manufacturer of shoes and accessories. Thus, Mrs. Cavalli won’t withdrawn her name from the market and she will be able to continue her production of leather goods “made in Italy”.

The Sicilian judgement is at odds with what was stated by the Supreme Court about Fiorucci. In that case, the Court judged unlawful the use of the brand Love Therapy by Elio Fiorucci by Mr. Fiorucci himself, because the famous trademark had been sold to a Japanese holding. That time, it was ruled that the use of the name, even if his own name, it’s not legal if it is a patronymic mark owned by third parties. It can happen, the Court explained, that a coupling effect is generated and that this leads to confusion about the more renowned trademark.

Round Two in the Sky against Skype Trademark Battles goes to Murdoch's men.

British broadcaster BSkyB has won round two in its trademark infringement battle with Skype.

The European Union General Court found on Tuesday that the two names are too similar and could cause confusion. In 2012 and 2013 the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM) upheld Sky’s complaint, but Skype then appealed to the EU court.

In today’s decision the court said that there were a number of contributing factors to its decision - in particular, their “degree of visual, phonetic and conceptual similarity”. Skype has attempted to argue that the “pronunciation of the vowel ‘y’ is no shorter in the word ‘skype’ than it is in the word ‘sky’.”

Skype also copped it over its cloud-shaped logo which the court found would be reminiscent of the standalone word "sky".

The argument that the word "skype" is highly distinctive and had even entered the lexicon for identifying voice over IP services was dismissed by the court.

Skype has one last lifeline - it can appeal to the European Court of Justice, but only on points of law and within the next 2 months. Calls to Skype and parent company Microsoft for comment were not returned at time of publication.

Is Pinocchio a valid Trademark?

With its decision of 25 February 2015 the Second Board of Appeal of OHIM partially upholding an appeal, has in fact confirmed the registrability as a trade mark of the word "Pinocchio".

In 2009, Disney had obtained by the Office of the registration of the word term "Pinocchio" for goods and services included in several classes. 

In 2012, Yves Fostier owner of a Community trade mark application which contains, the word "Pinocchio", but in a figurative trademark, had filed an application at OHIM to invalidate Disney’s trademark.

According to Mr. Fostier, Disney’s Trademark established an unacceptable monopoly on matters of law which entered in popular folklore and tradition. In any case, Disney’s application lacked of distinctive character, because popular and because it fell into the public domain. 

In the first degree the Office had, however, rejected Mr. Fostier’s arguments, observing that, on the one hand, the mere fact that a sign constitute the title of a story does not exclude the ability of the same sign to function as a trademark, and, second, the plaintiff had failed to demonstrate that the term "Pinocchio" was not capable of distinguishing the goods and services for which the mark was registered, nor he had proved that the term had become customary in a European language.

Mr. Fostier appealed the decision. 

This time, the Second Board of Appeal noted that, if a title is so well known to the audience to the point that it perceives the mark corresponding to designate primarily a title of a story or a book, that brand may be lacking distinctiveness. This will be more likely if it can be shown that several versions of the story have been published or that there have been numerous television and film adaptations, that have reached a wide audience. Therefore, although in principle the titles or the names of fictional characters can be registered and function as indicators of origin, it must be asked whether a sign is capable of being distinctive for the specific products and services covered by the mark.

According to the Second Board of Appeal Pinocchio belong to this special category of signs lacking distinctive character in relation to certain goods and services in Classes 9 (in particular film, video games, films, audio and video), 16 (children's books , books of drawings, cartoons), 28 (toys and the like), 41 (amusement parks and the like, theater productions, live performances) as consumers could be be led to believe that these goods and services are connected with the history and the character of Pinocchio.

Are decisions rendered by the UIBM subject to Res Judicata?

Following the introduction of administrative oppositions in front of the UIBM in 2009, the Italian doctrine has discussed on the possible preclusive effect of decisions rendered by the Italian trademark office.

The decision rendered by the Case T-11/13 (MEGO / TEGO) at the end of September, confirms what we knew: the decisions of opposition and nullity trademarks in front of the OHIM (but the same goes for the UIBM) do not have the effect of res judicata. This means that if an opposition has been rejected, the same party can bring another action for invalidity for the same reasons and under the same earlier grounds on which the Office has already taken a decision.

Of course the same applies when an action is introduced in front of a specialized court for nullity, revocation or infringement, when the UIBM has already rendered a judgment for the same trademarks.