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Tuesday, 25 November 2014

In a flap about bats: when trade marked chiroptera come home to roost

It is well known to all felines that a bat is nothing other than (i) a flying mouse and (ii) an annoyingly named creature that rhymes with "cat" but precedes it in the alphabet.  So when bats come to blows over their respective intellectual property rights, cats watch with detached amusement. Here, thanks to this short, sweet guest post from Sophie Arrowsmith (an IP solicitor with Hamlins), is an instructive piece of literature on one such scrap:

For many years the humble bat was merely a mammal of the order Chiroptera whose forelimbs form webbed wings, making them the only mammals naturally capable of true and sustained flight. Having come to the rescue of James I of Aragon by intervening at a crucial moment in a 13th century spat with the Saracens, the bat was no longer a figure in the shadows. Instead it became a lauded symbol of eastern Spain, eventually featuring on heraldic shields -- including that of the prize of James I’s battle - the lovely city of Valencia. Many centuries later, the bat was at the centre of another, more modern tiff. This time, the Spanish battle ground was Alicante (which, coincidentally, lies within the autonomous region of Valencia).

Having already successfully registered the bat, illustrated above right, as a trade mark first in 2007, Valencia Club de FĂștbol made one trade mark registration too many when it applied to register the bat trade mark on the left as a Community trade mark at the end of 2012. This application left DC Comics with little choice. The New York-based publishing giant’s Batman symbol, illustrated below right, was at risk of being confused by the public with the football club’s mark. Accordingly DC Comics filed an opposition based on this EU registered bat mark.

DC Comic’s trade mark strategy seems simple: bat with wings down is okay, but bat with wings up is a no-no, since the public will be confused by two bats sharing the same wing position.

The story of this dispute has been circulating for a while now, but there has been a renewed flurry of interest in the media (see eg this piece on the BBC).  This may be due to the fact that the Alicante-based Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market decision is expected soon. Is this opposition a flight of fancy from DC Comics, or will they be able to bat away this threat to their iconic mark? Watch this space ...
Thanks, says the IPKat, who wonders whether the scope for illustrating bats seems to be rather more limited than for many other mammals, given that they have only three basic positions: wings up, wings down and hanging bottom-up by their little paws.

Merpel is concerned about another likelihood of confusion. Sophie's firm Hamlins and her favourite toyshop Hamleys are both based in London's Regent Street. She wonders whether there have been any instances of clients and customers turning up at the wrong place.

Another famous bat logo here

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

...given that they have only three basic positions: wings up, wings down and hanging bottom-up by their little paws.

Er, Batfink disagrees with you.

Anonymous said...

One must wonder what the owner of another famous bat trademark thinks about this, especially considering that its founder was born in neighbouring Catalonia and may, or may not, have been inspired by the same heraldic bat of James I of Aragon...

Maybe they should all solve this argument around a few mojitos...or even some glasses of "Valencian Water".

Merpel McKitten said...

Batfink isn't a true bat: he has both wings and arms. This disqualifies him from further consideration.

Anonymous said...

EU001479591 depicted the IPBat flying in to the rescue, lest readers should be in a flap over this matter.

Kharol said...

didn't know Batman's playing football .. or is he a trainer?

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