EURO~FARMERS held to be imitation of European flag
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The Board of Appeal of the State Patent Bureau of the Republic of Lithuania has upheld an opposition filed by the European Commission (Opposition 1959) against the registration of the trademark EURO~FARMERS (and design) for goods in Classes 16, 29, 30 and 31 of the Nice Classification on the grounds that the mark was an imitation of the European flag from a heraldic point of view (Case 2Ap-1045, March 31 2008).
On August 31 2004 Juustutoeoestus OUE (Estonia) filed an application for the registration of the figurative trademark EURO~FARMERS in Lithuania (Registration 53678). The European Commission opposed the application, stating that the trademark did not meet the absolute requirements for registration because:
- the mark contained a symbol protected under Article 6ter of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property; and
- Juustutoeoestus had not been authorized to use or register a mark containing the European flag by the European Commission or the European Council.
Article 6ter(1)(b) of the Paris Convention provides protection to armorial bearings, flags and other emblems, as well as abbreviations and names of international intergovernmental organizations. The European Commission submitted evidence that the European flag is included in the World Intellectual Property Organization database of protected emblems.
The Board of Appeal first considered the commission’s argument that the trademark applied for was visually similar to the European flag. The board noted that the differences between the mark and the flag were insufficient to conclude that the mark was not an imitation of the European flag from a heraldic point of view.
Further, the board agreed with the commission’s argument that the word element ‘Euro~farmers’ reinforced the impression that there was a link between the mark and the European Union because:
- the prefix ‘Euro’ may be understood as a reference to the European Union; and
- the word ‘farmers’ refers to agriculture, one of the main fields of activity of the European Union.
Therefore, the board concluded that there was a likelihood that consumers would be misled into thinking that goods bearing the trademark EURO~FARMERS originated from, or were associated with, the European Union.
In addition, the board stated that European emblems must be protected in order to:
- ensure that the European Union has exclusive use of these symbols; and
- avoid consumer confusion as to the origin of goods.
The board also took into account the results of a public survey conducted in Lithuania in March 2008. The survey showed that:
- 53% of interviewees believed that the mark applied for was similar to the European Union flag; and
- 52% of interviewees were of the opinion that the mark was an imitation of the European flag.
Consequently, the board concluded that the trademark EURO~FARMERS was invalid.
Evelina Serelyte, Law Firm AAA Baltic Service Company, Vilnius
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