Paris High Court confused about protest sites


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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