Owner of CAMPER mark wins out at highest administrative court

Camper SL, a well-known Spanish company which manufactures and sells shoes, has won a significant victory before Greece’s highest administrative court following a legal battle that lasted almost eight years (Case 1555/2008, Appeal 3259/2006, April 14 2006).
Evaggelos Efst Episcopou, an individual, applied for the registration of the trademark CAMBER on February 6 1995. Episcopou’s family business, I and E Episcopou OE, had owned the trademark since 1985. Episcopou was a major shareholder of the business. I and E Episcopou was dissolved in 1987 and the trademark registration was neither assigned nor renewed. Following Episcopou’s application, Camper filed a petition for the cancellation of CAMBER.
The Trademark Committee dismissed the petition on the grounds that the 1995 trademark application was not filed in bad faith in light of the 1985 registration in the name of the family business. The committee further held that Camper had failed to prove bad faith, even though the 1993 registration for CAMPER preceded Episcopou’s 1995 application. The committee found that the CAMPER trademark was not sufficiently famous in Greece at the time of Episcopou’s application. Therefore, it could not conclude that Episcopou had sought to take advantage of the reputation of the CAMPER mark.
The Administrative Court of First Instance and the Administrative Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the committee. Both courts deemed that the evidence presented by Camper (which demonstrated the existence of a network of 120 stores and annual sales of 75,000 to 100,000 pairs of shoes in Greece) was insufficient to establish the reputation of the CAMPER trademark at the time of Episcopou’s application.
On appeal, the Council of State held that the Court of Appeals had erred in:
  • finding that the trademark CAMPER was not well known in Greece at the time of the application for the registration of CAMBER; and
  • disregarding Camper’s evidence that it had been importing and offering for sale in Greece apparel and shoes bearing the trademark CAMPER since 1993 (without interruption).
The Council of State also took into account Article 4(4)(g) of the First Trademarks Directive (89/104/EEC), which reads as follows:
A member state shall provide that a trademark shall not be registered or, if registered, shall be liable to be declared invalid where, and to the extent that the trademark is liable to be confused with a mark which was in use abroad on the filing date of the application, and which is still in use there, provided that at the time of the application the applicant was acting in bad faith.”
The Council of State concluded that a likelihood of confusion between an earlier foreign mark and a national mark is sufficient to refuse the registration of, or cancel, the later mark, even if at the time of the Greek application the foreign entity’s goods were not marketed in Greece, provided that the foreign entity’s goods were likely to become well-known in Greece.  

In view of the above, the Council of State reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals and remanded the case to the lower court for reconsideration.
Eleni Lappa, Dr Helen G Papaconstantinou John V Filias & Associates, Athens

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