Spar victorious in trademark and copyright infringement action against local competitor

Albania

The Appellate Court of Tirana has rejected an appeal lodged by Albanian retailer Iliria DC and upheld an earlier decision in favour of Spar International BV, a multinational chain of wholesale and retail supermarkets trading under the SPAR mark.

In November 2010 Spar International lodged a civil action against Iliria before the First Instance Court of Tirana on the ground that the defendant’s use of the marks DESPAR, INTERSPAR and EUROPSPAR infringed the plaintiff’s SPAR (word and device) marks and the copyright in the SPAR logo.

During the proceedings, the plaintiff submitted evidence showing that the defendant was using the DESPAR (word and device) mark as a name for its supermarket and the INTERSPAR and EUROSPAR marks on plastic bags offered to customers. The defendant was also importing, advertising and selling various goods under the DESPAR mark, mainly food, beverages, alcoholic drinks and household products, all of which were covered by the plaintiff’s registered marks.

Spar International based its action on its registered marks in Albania, International Registration Nos 565539 and 608847, as well as on the copyright in the SPAR logo. The plaintiff sought an injunction to prevent further infringement, arguing that the similarity and the coexistence of the marks could cause a likelihood of confusion.

For the purpose of proving the likelihood of confusion, the plaintiff highlighted the phonetic and visual similarities between the marks, as well as the identity of the goods. In addition, the plaintiff put forward arguments relating to the infringement of the copyright in the SPAR logo.

In its analysis of the similarities, the plaintiff relied heavily on various rulings by the EU authorities, and urged the Albanian court to consider them when analysing this particular case, emphasizing that the Albanian legislation had fully transposed the First Trademarks Directive (89/104/EEC).

The defendant, on the other hand, argued that there was no likelihood of confusion, and tried to highlight the dissimilarities between the marks.

Both the First Instance Court and the Appellate Court of Tirana found that the marks were confusingly similar and upheld the plaintiff’s claims in their entirety. The courts found that the defendant's marks infringed the plaintiff’s registered marks and its copyright in the SPAR logo, and thus ordered the defendant to cease the infringing acts.

Irma Cami, PETOŠEVIĆ, Tirana

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