The IPKat has been perusing today's solitary Community trade mark decision from the Court of First Instance, Case T‑449/07, Thomas Rotter v Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market. Rotter applied to register the pretzel-shaped configuration of sausages as a Community trade mark for the following goods and services:
– Class 29: ‘Meat, poultry and game; meat extracts; preserved, frozen, dried and cooked fruits and vegetables; jellies, jams, compotes; milk and milk products; charcuterie; potato products’;
– Class 30: ‘Sugar, rice, preparations made from cereals’;
– Class 43: ‘Providing of food and drink; temporary accommodation’.
"as regards, in particular, charcuterie, the shape for which registration was sought corresponds to an arrangement of five separate sausages, the ends of which are all linked to one another. ... attaching sausages to one another by their ends so that they constitute an unbroken chain is a common practice and one that is imposed by production. In addition, ... the average consumer would not perceive such a presentation of the goods as an indication of their commercial origin, but solely as one way, among many others, of linking a number of sausages to store them and sell them together. ... that was not such as to confer distinctive character on the shape applied for".Rotter then appealed to the Court of First Instance, meanwhile rather provocatively limiting his specification in Class 29 to the offending term 'charcuterie'. The Court dismissed the appeal. It said, in relevant part:
"28 ..., suffice it to state that, as the Board of Appeal correctly pointed out, gathering sausages together by their ends in order to store and sell them together is a common practice in trade.
29 ... the applicant is simply comparing the shape applied for, consisting of a combination of a number of sausages, with the shape which he considers to be typical, that of a single sausage. To the extent that – as the applicant himself acknowledges – the arrangement at issue is noticeable, such a comparison is manifestly immaterial, so that the argument has no factual basis.
30 ... it is clear from the examination ... that [Rotter] has not shown how the shape applied for differs significantly from the usual shape in which sausages are presented in trade.
32 That finding cannot be called into question by the applicant’s argument that the presentation of the sausages in the shape of an arrangement, which, in turn, creates an association with a known shape – namely that of a pretzel – from another sector of foodstuffs, is also not a form in which the goods at issue are usually presented to the consumer.The IPKat has some sympathy for Mr Rotter. A single circle cannot be distinctive of goods or services, but put five such circles together and you have one of the most powerful trade marks in the world -- the Olympic symbol. Why cannot that which cannot be achieved by a single sausage be achieved by five? Merpel says, from a consumer's point of view this pretzel is to sausages what BABY-DRY is to word marks: a sausagally unusual juxtaposition.
33 Thus, ... although it is similar to the shape of a pretzel, the shape applied for is not completely identical to that shape. Therefore, although ... the shape applied for constitutes an original, even unusual, presentation of charcuterie, it is nevertheless the case that the average consumer will not associate it with that of a pretzel, and will perceive merely a collection of five sausages linked to one another.
34 That finding can also not be called into question by the applicant’s argument that the shape applied for differs even more significantly from the form in which the goods at issue are normally presented to the consumer in that the use of a novel form of presenting charcuterie, intended to encourage sales, is in itself a new commercial phenomenon".