IP institute says trademarks consisting of numbers are descriptive


The Ecuadorian Institute of Intellectual Property (IEPI) has issued a ruling that further defines 'descriptive terms' which, according to Ecuadorian and Andean Community trademark law, may not be registered as trade or service marks.

In June 2001 US company Kimberly Clark applied to register 'Kleenex Boutique' as a trademark in Ecuador in relation to certain paper products, namely facial tissue. Local company Productos Familia Sancela del Ecuador SA filed an opposition based in part on its prior application to register '2 en 1' (indicating two-ply sheets) for the same goods.

The IEPI rejected Productos Familia's opposition on the grounds that (i) '2 en 1' and 'Kleenex Boutique' are not graphically, visually or phonetically similar, and (ii) '2 en 1' contains numbers, weakening the distinctiveness of the term and making it too descriptive to be registered as a trademark. The IEPI noted that Article 195(d) of the Ecuadorian Intellectual Property Law states that terms consisting exclusively of numbers or symbols that serve to qualify or describe some characteristic of the relevant product may not be registered as marks. Article 135(e) of Andean Community Decision 486 on a Common Intellectual Property Regime contains a similar provision.

Amani S Harrison, Bustamante & Bustamante, Quito

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