Electric bikes held to be similar to exercise bikes

European Union

In Electric Bike World v Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM) (Case T-379/12, October 15 2013), the General Court has upheld a decision of the First Board of Appeal of OHIM in which the latter had found that there was a likelihood of confusion between the mark LIFECYCLE and the earlier Spanish word mark LIFECYCLE for certain goods.

Electric Bike World Ltd applied for the registration of the mark LIFECYCLE for goods in Classes 12 ("vehicles; apparatus for locomotion by land, air or water; bicycles, electric bicycles; motorised bicycles; parts, fittings and accessories for any of the aforementioned goods"), 18 and 25 of the Nice Classification. Brunswick Corp opposed successfully on the basis of its earlier registration for LIFECYCLE for goods in Class 28 (“machines for physical exercises and sporting articles”). It was found by the Opposition Division of OHIM that Brunswick actually used the mark for exercise bikes.

On appeal, the First Board of Appeal of OHIM annulled the decision of the Opposition Division insofar as it had rejected the opposition for "vehicles; apparatus for locomotion by land or water; bicycles, electric bicycles; motorised bicycles; parts, fittings and accessories for any of the aforementioned goods" in Class 12, and dismissed the appeal for the other goods in Class 12 covered by the mark applied for.

Electric Bike appealed to the General Court, arguing that electric bikes cannot be considered to be similar to exercise bikes, and that the Board of Appeal had not satisfied its obligation to state reasons under Article 75 of the Community Trademark Regulation (207/2009).

The court held that OHIM had stated the reasons for its decision sufficiently, and that it could take into account arguments derived from facts which are likely to be known by anyone or may be learnt from generally accessible sources. In the present case, it was a matter of common knowledge that both regular bicycles and electric bicycles can be sold in sports shops that also market machines for physical exercises, such as exercise bikes. An electric bike has pedals and can be human-powered by pedalling, so they can also be used for the purposes of physical exercise, like non-motorised bicycles. The low degree of similarity between the goods was offset by the fact that the marks were identical.   

Paul Steinhauser, Bloemendaal

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