The IPKat had been waiting impatiently for today's appeal in Case T‑148/08, Beifa Group Co. Ltd v OHIM, Schwan-Stabilo Schwanhaüßer GmbH & Co. KG, since he knew -- after the battle in the Board of Appeal when Beifa threw every argument it could find against the challenge of Stabilo -- that it would be hard-fought. The appeal also had some curiosity in that it was the first Community registered design appeal of this nature to reach the General Court.
The Third Board of Appeal dismissed Beifa's appeal.
Beifa was successful today with regard to the comparison of the design with the earlier mark. To put it in the Court's own words:
"113 ... it is apparent from the registration certificate for the earlier mark ... that that mark is figurative, consisting in the image reproduced ... above. In the light of that aspect, all the parties agreed at the hearing that the only mark taken into consideration by the various adjudicating bodies within OHIM, when considering the application for a declaration of invalidity, was the earlier mark, which is a figurative mark, a fact which was recorded in the minutes.
114 In the absence of any other explanation in the decision of the Cancellation Division, the reference in that decision to the ‘three-dimensional shape’ of the earlier mark – a reference which is, at first sight, paradoxical in relation to a figurative mark – leads inescapably to the conclusion that, instead of basing its considerations on a comparison of the design in dispute with the earlier mark, the Cancellation Division compared that design with a three-dimensional mark which was not identified in its decision.
115 ... Stabilo had relied, in support of its application for a declaration of invalidity, not only on the earlier mark, but also, inter alia, on a three-dimensional mark registered in Germany under number 02911311 and corresponding to the image set out ... above.
116 That error on the part of the Cancellation Division was in no way rectified by the Board of Appeal. ... the Board of Appeal ... merely repeated the features attributed to the earlier mark by the Cancellation Division, without giving any indication that the Cancellation Division had referred, incorrectly, to a three-dimensional mark rather than to the earlier mark, or that those same features were also present in the earlier mark.
117 It follows that, since, in the contested decision, the Board of Appeal based its conclusion as to the likelihood of confusion between the design in dispute and the earlier mark on the comparison of that design with a sign other than the earlier mark, it erred in law and the contested decision must be annulled".