Monaco ne peut pas être une marque
Being patriotic is one thing and being affectionate about something is different. But in the garb of your patriotism, you can’t just go to the extent of seeking exclusivity over your country name to distinguish your goods and services. The General Court of EU has rejected appeal of Les Marques de (the applicant that replaced Principality of Monaco as proprietor of the trademark) against an order of Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM) for rejecting its application for the registration of its trademark ‘MONACO’. Interestingly, WIPO had Okayed the application and forwarded it to EU’s OHIM as a part of its processing of an International Application under the Madrid Protocol. The ground for refusal being lack of distinctiveness owing to the descriptive nature of the trademark for it tend to offer services originating from a geographic territory to which the mark belongs. The only thing that required court’s consideration was to see if the term ‘MONACO’ indeed implies the geographical territory of the same country to the people of Europe or not, of which it found ample evidence. (MONACO shares its boundaries with European Nations like France, but it’s not a member of European Union).
Obviously you can’t trademark a country name. Just imagine a scenario where an American national procures registration for the trademark ‘India’ and starts sending legal notices to proprietors all over the United States who are using the term merely to designate the source of their products. From a legal point of view, such a mark would inherently lack distinctiveness and would always create impression in customer’s mind with respect to the geographical origin of the goods and services. The situation however would change if a country name constitutes merely a part of the whole trademark. In such cases there is still a chance of procuring a trademark registration if it can be established that the goods have originated from the country that is mentioned in the trademark. (For Instance, trademarks like INDIA GATE and TAB INDIA are registered with the USPTO) Only if the usage of a country’s name is arbitrary and has no link with the namesake country, a ground for objection can arise on the ground of its being misleading with respect to the origin of the products.
From the news reports, an application for appeal in the European Court of Justice seems pretty likely. From a logical point of view, I think that the applicant should put an end to its quest for registering its trademark for the decision of General Court looks pretty sound.
(I said ‘seems’ and ‘think’ because judgment is not available in English and my Estonian not pretty good :P)
The heading of the blog is in French. It means “MONACO cannot be a Trademark”.
-Courtesy Google Translator 😛
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