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Wednesday, 22 February 2006

A QUICKIE FROM THE CFI; IT CONFERENCE - AND A COMPETITION!


En vitessse - un quickie

Bonjour, mes braves, dit l'IPKat. Aujourd'hui nous avons ce jugement, que n'est pas traduit en anglais: c'est l’affaire T-74/04 Société des produits Nestlé SA contre l'Office de l’harmonisation dans le marché intérieur, Quick restaurants SA.

Nestlé sought to register, as a Community trade mark, the QUICKY rabbit (above, right: in the CFI transcript the rabbit mark is accompanied by the subscript word "QUICKY") for goods in Classes 29, 30 and 32. Quick Restaurants opposed, citing earlier Benelux (and other) registrations in Classes 29, 30, 32, 33 and 42 of its own Quick signs (left) and of the word mark QUICKIES in Classes 29, 30 and 42. A likelihood of confusion under Art.8(1)(b) of Regulation 40/94 was alleged.

The Opposition Division upheld the opposition in respect of numerous goods and services and Nestlé, having appealed unsuccessfully to the Board of Appeal, tried its luck with the Court of First Instance - which dismissed the appeal. On the similarity of the respective marks the CFI had this to say:

"49 ... il convient d’analyser la similitude visuelle entre les éléments verbaux QUICKIES et QUICKY, puis, au cas où une telle similitude serait constatée, de vérifier si l’élément graphique ou figuratif additionnel, propre à la marque demandée, est susceptible de constituer un élément de différenciation suffisant pour écarter l’existence d’une similitude visuelle des signes en conflit aux yeux du public de référence .... En d’autres termes, il est nécessaire de déterminer si, d’un point de vue visuel, le dessin du lapin constitue l’élément dominant de la marque demandée, c’est-à-dire domine à lui seul l’image que le public pertinent garde en mémoire, ou si, au contraire, il est un élément distinctif d’intensité égale ou inférieure à l’élément verbal constitué par le mot « quicky ».

50 Les éléments verbaux QUICKIES et QUICKY présentent incontestablement une similitude sur le plan visuel. En ce qui concerne l’importance qu’il convient d’accorder au dessin du lapin comme élément de différenciation entre les deux signes en conflit, celui-ci ne saurait constituer l’élément dominant dans l’impression d’ensemble produite par la marque demandée, au point que l’élément verbal QUICKY en deviendrait négligeable. En effet, lorsqu’une marque est composée d’éléments verbaux et figuratifs, les premiers sont, en principe, plus distinctifs que les seconds, car le consommateur moyen fera plus facilement référence aux produit en cause en citant le nom qu’en décrivant l’élément figuratif de la marque ... Par ailleurs, l’élément verbal QUICKY n’est pas écrit en petits caractères et sa représentation graphique correspond à la largeur du dessin du lapin. En outre, il occupe, dans la marque demandée, une place aussi importante que le dessin, puisqu’il est placé de façon très visible, immédiatement sous le dessin.

51 Ensuite, il y a lieu de relever que l’élément figuratif de la marque demandée, à savoir le dessin d’un lapin, pourrait être perçu par le public davantage comme un élément décoratif de l’étiquette des produits désignés que comme le signe indiquant l’origine des produits. En effet, comme la requérante l’a admis lors de l’audience en réponse à une question du Tribunal, l’utilisation d’un animal jovial et animé, par exemple un dinosaure ou un lapin ressemblant à un personnage de dessin animé, est un procédé qui est utilisé par les fabricants de produits alimentaires pour capter un public jeune, notamment les enfants. Cette utilisation fréquente de différents animaux pour ce type de produits a pour conséquence une banalisation de leur usage et de leur caractère distinctif, lequel, ce faisant, tend à être considérablement diminué".
According to Babelfish this means:
"49. ... it is advisable to analyze the visual similarity between verbal elements QUICKIES and QUICKY, then, if such a similarity would be noted, to check if the element graphic or figurative additional, specific to the required mark, constitutes a sufficient element of differentiation to draw aside the existence of a visual similarity of the signs in conflict to the eyes of the public of reference ... In other words, it is necessary to determine if, from a visual point of view, the drawing of rabbit constitutes the element dominating of the required mark, i.e. dominates with him only the image that the relevant public keeps in memory, or if, on the contrary, it is a distinctive element of intensity equal or lower than the verbal element consisted the word "quicky".

50. Verbal elements QUICKIES and QUICKY incontestably present a similarity on the visual level. With regard to the importance which it is advisable to attach to the drawing of rabbit like element of differentiation between the two signs in conflict, this one could not constitute the element dominating in the overall impression produced by the required mark, so much so that verbal element QUICKY would become negligible about it. Indeed, when a mark is made up of verbal and figurative elements, the first are, in theory, more distinctive than the seconds, because the average consumer will more easily refer to the product in question by quoting the name than by describing the figurative element of the mark ... In addition, verbal element QUICKY is not written in small characters and its chart corresponds to the width of the drawing of rabbit. Moreover, it occupies, in the mark requested, a place as important as the drawing, since it is placed in a very visible way, immediately under the drawing.

51 Then, it is necessary to raise that the figurative element of the required mark, namely the drawing of a rabbit, could be perceived by the public more like a decorative element of the label of the indicated products that as the sign indicating the origin of the products. Indeed, as the applicant one admitted at the time of the audience in answer to a question of the Court, the use of a jovial and animated animal, for example a dinosaur or a rabbit resembling to a character of animated drawing, is a process which is used by the manufacturers of foodstuffs to collect a young public, in particular the children. This frequent use of various animals for this type of products has as a consequence a vulgarizing of their use and their distinctive nature, which, by doing this, tends to considerably being decreased".
The IPKat is anxious that he has missed something and very much hopes that his friends will correct any errors by posting a Comment below. Merpel, having conducted a brief tour of the internet, wonders whether the real problem with the rabbit is that Nestlé seems to use it in so many different poses ...

See also Case T-348/02 Quick Restaurants SA v OHIM, a case that was translated into English so long after it was initially decided that the IPKat forgot to carry on looking for it.


IT Conference Reminder

CLT's 8th Annual Information Technology Conference (full programme here) takes place on Tuesday 21 March at Jurys Great Russell Street Hotel, London. There's a strong cast of speakers, including
* Jon Fell (Pinsent Masons, right) on recent e-commerce developments and management of online risk;

* the ever-popular Robert Carolina (Origin Ltd) on how US regulation impacts on IT contracts;

* Andres Guadamuz, the celebrated TechnoLlama (left), tackles software patenting issues on both sides of the Pond and asks what it all means to us mere mortals;

* competition law guru Christopher Stothers (Milbank Tweed, Hadley & McCloy) on the aftermath of Microsoft v European Commission and

* David Morris (Slaughter and May), asking how far database protection encroaches into our daily IP existences.
And here's IPKat Competition no.4: SPOT THE FISH. The winning prize - free admission to the conference (that's worth £495 plus VAT, if you pay it).


This is a painting of Jesus distributing some loaves and fish. The IPKat has no problem with the loaves - but he can't find the fish. To enter the competition, please mark the spot on the picture where you think the fish ought to be, then return it to the IPKat at this address. The best entry wins!

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