Opposition to registration of MONT BLANC for cigarettes goes up in smoke

The Supreme Court Senate has upheld a decision of the Riga District Court in which the latter had dismissed an opposition against the registration of the mark MONT BLANC (March 12 2009).

Polish company Zaklady Tytoniowe w Lubline SA applied for the registration of the trademark MONT BLANC in Latvia for goods in Class 34 of the Nice Classification (tobacco articles and cigarettes).

Montblanc-Simplo GmbH opposed the application under Articles 6(2), 8(1) and 8(2) of the Latvian Trademark Law (LPZ/99). In particular, Montblanc argued that:
  • the mark applied for was identical or confusingly similar to the well-known trademarks MONTBLANC and MONTBLANC THE ART OF WRITING; and 
  • Zaklady had applied for the registration of its mark in bad faith in an attempt to take advantage of the reputation of the well-known MONTBLANC marks.
The Board of Appeals dismissed the opposition, holding that Montblanc had failed to prove that the application had been filed in bad faith.

Montblanc appealed to the Administrative District Court, which reversed the decision of the Board of Appeals and upheld the opposition. Zaklady appealed to the Riga District court, which reversed the decision of the Administrative District Court and dismissed the opposition. Montblanc filed a cassation appeal before the Supreme Court Senate.

First, the Supreme Court Senate recognized that the MONTBLANC marks are well known in Latvia. However, the court pointed out that the marks are well known only in relation to a "narrow and specific group of goods" (ie, stationery) which are perceived by the public as "exclusive products".
Second, the court held that the trademark MONTBLANC is used by many companies in Latvia in connection with various goods. For example, Swedish company Mont Blanc Industri AB sells car roof racks under the trademark MONT BLANC. Therefore, the court concluded that the average Latvian consumer of tobacco products would not be misled into thinking that Zaklady's goods originated from Montblanc. In addition, the court pointed out that Zaklady's goods were not sold through the same trade channels as Montblanc's goods.

Third, the court stated that there was no reason to believe that use of the MONT BLANC mark for tobacco products would cause damage to the reputation of the well-known MONTBLANC marks. 

The court thus dismissed the appeal and upheld the decision of the Riga District Court in favour of Zaklady.

Valentina Sergeyeva, Strahlberg & Partners, Riga

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