Mark will not be associated with eponymous Belgian town

The Board of Appeal has annulled a decision of the Estonian Patent Office in which the latter had refused to register the trademark SPA (Decision 1014-o, March 10 2010).
Spa Monopole, compagnie fermière de Spa SA applied to extend protection to Estonia of the word mark SPA (International Registration 583625) for mineral and aerated waters and other non-alcoholic beverages in Class 32 of the Nice Classification. Spa Monopole submitted a contract that it had entered into with the town of Spa (Belgium) in 1974. According to the contract, Spa Monopole had the right to use the word 'spa' for mineral water, salts and other components produced within the territory of Spa. Spa Monopole also pointed out that it owned a registration for the mark SPA (and design) in Class 32, which the office had accepted in 1999 (Registration 28912).  
The office refused to register the mark on the grounds that the word 'spa' designated the geographical origin of the goods. The office held that 'Spa' is the name of a town located in Belgium, whose spring water has been used for health treatments since the 14th century. The office also stated that the contract with the town was irrelevant because it did not reflect Spa Monopole's right to register the word 'spa' as a trademark in other countries. Spa Monopole appealed.
The Board of Appeal upheld the appeal and reversed the office’s decision. The board found that the earlier registration of the mark SPA (and design) was significant, as it essentially allowed the registration of the word mark SPA. The board agreed with Spa Monopole that the average consumer would associate the word 'spa' with water and other health treatments, rather than with the small Belgian town. The board also found that the office had erred in holding that the contract was irrelevant. Although it did not reflect Spa Monopole's right to register the word 'spa' expressis verbis, the contract did not forbid the registration of the mark.  
Kärt Laigu, Käosaar & Co, Tallinn

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