Case T‑521/13 Alpinestars Research Srl v Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market, Kean Tung Cho and Ling-Yuan Wang Yu, a General Court of the European Union (Third Chamber) decision going back to 7 July, is one of those decisions that has been sitting in this Kat's in-tray for far too long. But then, since the matter in question has taken so long to get as far as a judicial ruling, there didn't seem to be any urgent hurry to blog it.
|This appears to be how|
Alpinestars uses its mark
The Opposition Division rejected the opposition and Alpinestars appealed. In July 2013 the Fourth Board of Appeal dismissed Alpinestars’ appeal. In essence, the Board of Appeal agreed with the Opposition Division that the goods covered by the respective marks were identical. However, the respective signs were similar to only a low degree both visually and phonetically. What's more, in spite of the common origin of the two marks (the word ‘αστήρ’ in ancient Greek, meaning 'star'), it was unlikely that consumers would detect any conceptual similarity between them. Alpinestars then applied to the General Court to annul the Board of Appeal's decision.
The General Court held that the decision of the Board of Appeal would be annulled.
|Seeing stars ...|
|In the days before Stormtroopers|
As to the likelihood of confusion, the goods at issue were identical, there was an average degree of visual similarity between the signs at issue for the whole of the relevant public and a high degree of phonetic similarity between the signs at issue for at least the non-English-speaking public. Thus, even though there was no conceptual similarity, the conceptual dissimilarity between them could not suffice to counteract the average degree of visual similarity and the high degree of phonetic similarity which existed. There was accordingly a likelihood of confusion.
Says this Kat, the most notable things about this decision are the almost manic attention to detail paid by the Court in dissecting the respective marks and the inordinate time that seems to be required before a CTM opposition gets out of the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market and receives a judicial decision. As for the attention to detail, that is no crime -- but the closer the focus on the minutiae of the comparison of conflicting marks, the easier it is for people to forget that the decision as to whether marks are confusingly similar must be founded on an overall global impression of the respective marks. As for the time spent getting a ruling, well maybe it's quite explicable -- if seven years on Earth equals one Interstellar hour.