Furniture and carpets held to be similar

European Union

In COR Sitzmöbel Helmut Lübke GmbH & Co KG v Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM) (Case T-214/09, October 20 2011), the General Court has ruled against COR Sitzmöbel Helmut Lübke GmbH & Co KG in a case involving the German furniture manufacturer’s application for the territorial extension to the European Union of the international word mark COR. The mark covered "furniture" in Class 20 and "carpets" in Class 27 of the Nice Classification.

The General Court confirmed OHIM’s decision to reject the application on account of an opposition by Spanish company El Corte Inglés SA based on the Community word mark CADENACOR, which covered goods in Class 20, including furniture. In essence, OHIM considered that, given the visual and phonetic similarity between the marks COR and CADENACOR, and the identity or similarity of the goods covered by the marks, there would be a likelihood of confusion among the public 

The General Court’s decision followed OHIM’s line of reasoning. In this regard, the General Court took into consideration the perception of Spanish consumers with a higher-than-normal level of attention. It argued that furniture and carpets are similar goods, not only because they have the same purpose and are used in the same way, but also because they are aesthetically complementary and are often sold under the same trademark. Further, the fact that furniture and carpets can be manufactured by different companies was irrelevant when assessing the similarity of the goods at issue: the relevant factor was whether consumers considered it usual for the goods to be sold under the same trademark.

The General Court then turned to the similarity between the marks and stated that the earlier trademark CADENACOR would be perceived by the relevant consumers as the juxtaposition of the words 'cadena' (meaning 'chain') and 'cor' (which has no meaning), together meaning 'COR chain [of shops]'.

Examining the dominant element of the earlier mark, the General Court added that the element 'cor' was a fanciful word that would draw the attention of consumers, while the word 'cadena' is a common term used to designate a form of distribution, which had only a weak distinctive character. The position of the word 'cadena' at the beginning of the mark, the frequency with which the word 'cadena' is used as a trademark and the inclusion of the element 'cor' in many trademarks for furniture and several Spanish names did not alter this conclusion.

In view of the above, the General Court found that, although, visually and phonetically, the marks had a different length, the fact that the most distinctive element of the earlier mark ('cor') was identical to the international trademark COR would create a similar overall impression. The General Court thus concluded that there was a likelihood of confusion between the marks and rejected the appeal.

The decision may still be appealed to the Court of Justice of the European Union based exclusively on points of law.

Ana Sanz Cerralbo, Elzaburu SLP, Madrid

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