Hotel name held not to be a mark established through use

In The Gripsholm Inn AB v The Swedish Red Cross (Case T 9378-09), the Svea Court of Appeal in Stockholm has held that the Swedish Red Cross had not infringed the trademark or business name of plaintiff Gripsholm Inn AB due to its use of the trademark GRIPSHOLMSVIKEN HOTEL & CONFERENCE. The Gripsholm Inn claimed that the Red Cross infringed its exclusive rights in the trademark GRIPSHOLMS, which, according to the Gripsholm Inn, had been established through use pursuant to the Swedish Trademark Act.

The Gripsholm Inn ('Gripsholms Värdshus' in Swedish) operates within the hotel, restaurant and conference sector in Sweden. The trademark GRIPSHOLMS has been in use since 1609 and the company provides a combination of exclusive accommodation and cuisine.

Since 2006 the Swedish Red Cross, a non-profit organisation, has conducted a hotel and conference business under the name Gripsholmsviken Hotel & Conference. Both parties carry on business in the small Swedish town of Mariefred, and the distance between their facilities is approximately 1,000 metres.

Before the Stockholm District Court, the Gripsholm Inn declared that the trademark GRIPSHOLMS had been established through use, pursuant to the Trademark Act, within the hotel, restaurant and conference sector. The Gripsholm Inn declared that the name Gripsholms was, as demonstrated by several marketing surveys, well known by a significant part of the relevant public. The Gripsholm Inn further argued that, since GRIPSHOLMSVIKEN HOTEL & CONFERENCE had been registered as a trademark, there had been several instances of confusion among consumers, as well as confusion over mail delivery.

The district court ruled in favour of the Red Cross and concluded that the name Gripsholms lacked the required distinctiveness to function as a trademark, as there were over 30 other company names which contained the names Gripsholm or Gripsholms. Furthermore, the district court stated that the marketing surveys presented to the court did not show that the name Gripsholms itself was known in connection with the services provided by the Gripsholm Inn. The court also noted that former employees of the Gripsholm Inn did not use the name Gripsholms on its own, but referred to 'the Gripsholm Inn' or merely 'the Inn'.

The district court thus concluded that the mark GRIPSHOLMS had not been established through use with regard to the services provided by the Gripsholm Inn. Consequently, there had been no trademark infringement by the Swedish Red Cross. The court also found that the Swedish Red Cross had not infringed the Gripsholm Inn's company name, as there was no risk of confusion between the company names of the parties.

On appeal, the Svea Court of Appeal agreed with the Stockholm District Court that the name Gripsholms was not a mark that had been established through use with regard to the services provided by the Gripsholm Inn. The appeal was thus dismissed.

The Gripsholm Inn applied for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, but subsequently withdrew its application. Therefore, the dispute is now settled.

Tom Kronhöffer and Linda Petersson, MAQS Law Firm, Stockholm

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