Paris High Court confused about protest sites

France

The Paris High Court is confused about the treatment of protest sites. In one case, involving Areva, it ruled that the reproduction of a trademark along with additional elements does not amount to trademark infringement under the EU Trademark Directive. A few weeks earlier, it had held that replacing 'S' with '$' in the ESSO trademark did amount to infringement.

The ruling in Areva v Greenpeace was issued by Judge Binoche. The case was brought by French nuclear fuel company Areva against (among others) Greenpeace France. Areva alleged that the posting on Greenpeace's website of a logo, which presented a skull-shaped shadow behind an 'A' similar to Areva's trademark, violated European trademark law.

Binoche rejected Areva's allegations, reasoning that under the Trademark Directive, infringement involves the use of a sign which is identical to the litigious trademark. In this case, however, the Greenpeace logo had additional elements. The judge also considered the non-commercial nature of the Greenpeace website and concluded that the use of the logo did not result in confusion. This was a case of free speech, not trademark infringement, concluded the judge.

This decision contrasts with the ruling by the same court in Esso v Greenpeace, this time delivered by Judge Belfort. Belfort ordered Greenpeace to cease the use of the Esso logo on its website, whereby the organization replaced the 'S' with '$' so that the logo read 'E$$O'.

Cédric Manara, Cabinet Caprioli Avocats, Nice

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