'Origin neutral' mark rejected in borderline case

United Kingdom
In LG Electronics Inc's application (Case O-189-10, June 4 2010), the appointed person has dismissed LG Electronics Inc's appeal against the UK Intellectual Property Office's refusal to allow the registration of the word mark INTELLIGENT SENSOR for goods in Class 9 of the Nice Classification on the basis that it was descriptive for mobile telephones and television sets. The hearing officer also felt that the mark was devoid of distinctive character, in that consumers would view it as having some sort of advertising function.
On appeal, LG submitted that the hearing officer was wrong, as the mark INTELLIGENT SENSOR described neither the goods nor any of their essential characteristics, being an arbitrarily created and fanciful term.
Dismissing the appeal, the appointed person considered that, although marks could be registrable even if they did not demonstrate a particularly high level of inventiveness, the registrability of such marks depended on whether the particular combination of the words used could be seen as describing either the goods or some quality of the goods. Whether the particular mark was objectionable for the specification of goods was a question for the hearing officer.
This was a borderline case and another hearing officer may have found the mark to be sufficiently vague to avoid being objectionable on the absolute ground of descriptiveness.
As to the absence of distinctive quality, the appointed person agreed that the hearing officer was entitled to conclude that the mark was essentially "origin neutral" and that consumers would not see it as indicating that the goods originated from a particular source.
Jeremy Phillips, IP consultant to Olswang LLP, London

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