Transport Manual protected under marketing, rather than trademark law

Norway

In the case of Bjørgu AS v Transporthåndboken.no AS, a court in Fredrikstad has issued a preliminary injunction forbidding Transporthåndboken.no from using the phrase 'The Transport Manual' (Transporthåndboken) as a domain name, company name or general mark.

The Transport Manual is a printed publication, which has been published since 1974. In 2000 all rights to the manual were transferred to Bjørgu, which continued to publish it under its original name. Transporthåndboken.no registered 'The Transport Manual' as both its company name and domain name, but neither party registered the phrase as a trademark.

The court found in favour of Bjørgu and held that the phrase 'The Transport Manual' is protected by Sections 1 and 8a of the Marketing Act. Section 1 forbids acts that are "contrary to sound business practices between business partners", while Section 8a forbids the imitation of marks, products or other material that could cause confusion or mistake. The court did not assess Bjørgu's contention that the phrase is protected by the Trademark Act because it had been in continuous use, ruling that the Marketing Act had been infringed and that this was sufficient grounds for the preliminary injunction.

Transporthåndboken.no has one month to appeal the court's ruling. In the meantime, it is maintaining its online presence under the slightly altered name 'The Norwegian Transport Manual'. Whether this will be considered to be an ongoing infringement depends on how the court's order is interpreted if Bjørgu should decide to file a new claim.

Lars Jakob Blanck, Advokatfirma Lindh Stabell Horten, Oslo

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