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SpecialKats: Verónica Rodríguez Arguijo (TechieKat), Hayleigh Bosher (Book Review Editor), and Tian Lu (Asia Correspondent).

Friday, 3 March 2006


Competitor's use of identical order is lawful

The IPKat has been pondering Case C-59/05 Siemens AG v VIPA GmbH, decided by the European Court of Justice on the Thursday of last week.

In 1983 Siemens, who made and sold SIMANTEC programmable controllers, introduced a system of order numbers for the controllers and add-on components. VIPA made and sold components that were compatible with SIMANTEC controllers. From 1988, VIPA employed an identification system that was virtually identical to that of Siemens. Siemens sued VIPA for trade mark infringement, alleging that VIPA took unfair advantage of the reputation of its products. The German Bundesgerichtshof, seeking guidance on Council Directive 84/450 on misleading and comparative advertising, stayed the proceedings and referred to the European Court of Justice the question whether, by using in its catalogues the core elements of a manufacturer’s distinguishing mark which was known in trade circles, a competing supplier was taking unfair advantage of the reputation of that distinguishing mark within the meaning of Article 3a(1)(g) of Directive 84/450.

The court ruled as follows:

"Article 3a(1)(g) of Council Directive 84/450 [as amended] must be interpreted as meaning that, in circumstances such as those in the main proceedings, by using in its catalogues the core element of a manufacturer’s distinguishing mark which is known in specialist circles, a competing supplier does not take unfair advantage of the reputation of that distinguishing mark".
There was no unfair advantage because
* the competing products were aimed at a specialist public which was much less likely than final consumers to associate the reputation of Siemens' products with that of VIPA's;

* the use of VIPA's acronym in its own order numbers (eg Siemens' 6ES5 928-3UB21 product order number, corresponding to VIPA's VIPA 928-3UB21) made it possible to distinguish between the parties' respective products, thus preventing a false impression being given either as to the origin of VIPA's products or as to there being any association between VIPA and Siemens.
The IPKat says this decision is uncontroversial: it's in line with earlier ECJ rulings in Cases C-112/99 Toshiba Europe [2002] ETMR 26 and C-44/01 Pippig Augenoptik [2004] ETMR 5. Merpel agrees and adds, this case didn't reach the ECJ till February 2005 and was disposed of just one year later: that shows it can't have caused the court too many headaches.

Naming winds

This delightful piece appears in The Onion:
National Weather Service To Give Hurricanes Full Names

The National Weather Service announced Friday that, in response to the increasing number of hurricanes, it is revising its naming system. "The hundreds of hurricanes we expect in the North Atlantic in 2006 will receive both proper and surnames", Max Mayfield of the weather service said. "In fact, tropical storms Alberto Fergus, Beverly Stenwick-Brown, and Chris Stubbs Jr. have already received names under the new system". After all possible first and last names are exhausted, storms will be given titles, beginning with Hurricane Assistant Accounts Manager Alexander Epps, CPA.
This gives the IPKat an idea: how about selling the naming rights to the highest bidder? He suspects that hurricanes named after mothers-in-law, politicians and sports personalities would net a good deal of revenue for the relevant licensing authorities. There might even be a WIPO-led initiative on the protection of rights in hurricane nomenclature. Maybe, says Merpel, but some people associate WIPO more with hot air than with hurricanes ...

Naming of hurricanes here; naming of cyclones here; The Tempest here
Blowin' in the Wind here
Wind sufferers click here

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