From October 2016 to March 2017 the team is joined by Guest Kats Rosie Burbidge and Eibhlin Vardy, and by InternKats Verónica Rodríguez Arguijo, Tian Lu and Hayleigh Bosher.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Out of Plaice: Monte Carlo beached in County Monaghan opposition

Readers of this weblog should now be familiar with the name of T.M.R. Restaurants Limited's application; opposition by Société Anonyme Des Bains De Mer Et Du Cercle Des Etrangers, the recent (9 May) Irish Patents Office decision of Dermot Doyle (acting for the Controller) which was the subject of a fairly grumpy post from this Kat yesterday evening on the subject of time-wasting grounds of opposition. Now for a look at the substantive legal issues.

T.M.R., an Irish company which ran a fish and chip shop (or “chipper”, which appears to be the preferred Irish term for what the British call a "chippy")  in County Monaghan, applied to register as a trade mark in Ireland a figurative sign featuring a caricature of a fish wearing a chef's hat and holding a frying pan together with text reading as follows “The Monte Carlo Traditional Fish & Chips”, illustrated on the right.  Registration of this sign as a trade mark was sought in respect of “Meat, fish, poultry and game; meat extracts; preserved, frozen, dried and cooked fruits and vegetables; jellies, jams, compotes; eggs, milk and milk products; edible oils and fats” in Class 29 and “Services for providing food and drink” in Class 43.

This application was opposed by a company registered in Monaco the name of which is so long that this note will refer to it simply as "the opponent".  The opponent owned of earlier international and Community word and figurative trade marks which consisted of or included the words “Monte Carlo” and which were registered for “arranging and conducting of colloquiums, seminars, conferences and receptions” in Class 42 and “bar services, restaurants, food and drink catering; hotels providing seminar rooms and reception rooms, hotel reservations; on-line reservations on an Internet portal for commercial services relating to hotels, restaurants, seminar and reception rooms” in Class 43. The figurative mark, illustrated on the left, contained the text “MONTE CARLO SOCIETE DES BAINS DE MER”. The grounds of opposition were that T.M.R.'s mark
  • consisted exclusively of signs or indications which may designate characteristics of the goods,
  • consisted of signs or indications that have become customary in the trade,
  • was of such a nature as to deceive,
  • was such that its use was prohibited by enactment or rule of law,
  • was based on an application for registration that was made in bad faith,
  • caused a likelihood of confusion on the part of the public, and likelihood of association with the opponent’s trade marks
  •  if used, would take unfair advantage of, or be detrimental to, distinctive character or reputation of the opponent’s mark,
  • was such that its use was liable to be prevented by virtue of any rule of law protecting an unregistered trade mark or other sign,
  • could not stand against the opponent’s marks, since the latter were earlier marks that were entitled to protection under the Paris Convention as well-known trade marks,
  • was neither used nor intended to be used in relation to goods covered by the application.
  • was based on an application that has not met the requirements for registration.
The opponent didn't actually substantiate most of these grounds of opposition, as this Kat's earlier note has mentioned.  However the opponent did submit evidence in support of its opposition to the effect that it had been operating a casino under the name “Casino de Monte-Carlo” for over 140 years and had been granted a monopoly to operate gambling premises for the State of Monaco. Its MONTE CARLO resort comprised casinos, hotels and restaurants and employed over 3,000 staff. It estimated that some 700 nights were reserved at the resort by Irish persons during the most recent five-year period for which figures were available. In response, T.M.R. submitted evidence that it had been trading under the name “The Monte Carlo” since 1970, but not that it had been using the applied-for figurative mark during that time.

Hearing Officer Dermot Doyle dismissed the opposition on all grounds.

Some of the grounds were easy to deal with. In particular, Mr Doyle observed, the mere fact that the opponent’s marks were earlier than the mark applied for was not a ground of opposition and the words “The Monte Carlo”, together with the fanciful figurative element of the fish, dressed in chef’s hat holding a frying pan, and the blue circle background, could be considered to fall within the scope of “signs and designations that must remain open to be used by all traders of the goods and services for which protection is sought”. Further, while the words “Traditional Fish & Chips” were indeed customary in the trade, the words “The Monte Carlo”, the figurative element of the fish using a frying pan and the blue circle background could not realistically be considered to be so.  Also, while pretty well every Irish consumer would have heard of Monte Carlo, there was no suggestion, let alone evidence, that they would have imagined it to be a trade mark rather than the name of a place.

Comparing the respective marks, there was some small similarity in so far as both contained the words "Monte Carlo", but that was about as far as it went -- and there was no evidence in any event that the opponent's mark was a mark with a reputation among the good folk of Ireland.  The marks, taken as a whole, were dissimilar, would not be confused and the use by one could not be seen to be a tarnishing of the reputation of the other or an unjustified riding on its coat-tails.

Taking a leaf out of the Book of Reality, a work to which presumably neither the opponent nor its professional representatives had opportunity to refer, Mr Doyle added this:
"52. On the one hand we have a chipper, selling traditional fish and chips and the like, and on the other, an undertaking running luxury resorts, comprising casinos and high-quality hotels, restaurants and spas; both of whom are using the term MONTE CARLO in their trade marks. The respective undertakings are not, in any way, competing with one another. The issue rests on whether it is likely that a consumer, who must be assumed to be already familiar with the goods and services sold under the Opponent’s earlier trade marks, being exposed in a typical purchasing scenario to the goods or services bearing the mark applied for, is likely to be confused. Would he seriously entertain the thought that the goods or services he is purchasing are connected in some way with those goods or services that he has known previously under the Opponent’s marks? Or on encountering the Applicant’s mark would he be likely to attempt to order Caviar, Foie Gras, Filet Mignon and Crème Brûlée, to be washed down with a bottle of 2005 Chambertin Grand Cru, as he might have done when in one of the Opponent’s establishments? In my opinion, there is no possibility that consumers would believe that the respective parties are linked economically in any way. Because of the differences in the respective marks, the different types of consumer of the respective marks, the extremely different purchasing scenarios under which the consumer is likely to encounter them and the fact that the parties are not in competition with one another, I think that these questions must be answered in the negative".
This Kat has recently taken a great and active interest in coexistence agreements on behalf of MARQUES, the organisation for European trade marks, and has been involved in the setting up and running of two highly successful experimental workshops on negotiating coexistence agreements and prior rights agreements which took place last month in Rotterdam and Munich respectively. In his view, this dispute could have been settled swiftly and effectively, and far, far more cheaply, if the parties had negotiated a sensible coexistence settlement as soon as T.M.R.'s application became known to the opponent, rather than letting this nasty opposition fester for over four years before it predictably hit the buffers.

Merpel adds, is it any coincidence that MARQUES's annual meeting this year takes place in, er, Monte Carlo?

Catfish here and here
Monte Carlo or Bust here

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm rather curious to know what would happen if a high-roller used to the more traditional Monte Carlo establishments went into the County Monaghan establishment bearing the same name and ordered 50,000 euros worth of chips.

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