Use of medal in wine mark is misleading, says Supreme Court
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The Estonian Supreme Court has put an end to a long-running dispute over the use of a wine competition medal in the figurative trademark SOVETSKOJE IGRISTOJE (Case 3-2-1-29-09, May 5 2009).
On August 5 1997 AS Latvijas Balzams (formerly A/S Rigas Vini) applied for the registration of the trademark SOVETSKOJE IGRISTOJE (Application 9701747) for "sparkling wines" in Class 33 of the Nice Classification. The Estonian Patent Office accepted the application in 1999.
In 2001 OÜ Estodes appealed to the Board of Appeal, claiming that the trademark was misleading because it includes the picture of a medal from the 1965 Tbilisi International Wine Contest, which Latvijas Balzams never won. The board upheld the appeal and the office removed the mark from the register.
Latvijas Balzams challenged the office’s decision before the Board of Appeal, claiming that its predecessor, A/S Rigas Vini, had won the medal in question and, therefore, use of the medal in the mark was justified. The board upheld the appeal and the office reinstated the mark.
In 2004 OÜ Fontan RV contested the registration of the mark on the same grounds as those raised by OÜ Estodes. In 2006 the Board of Appeal annulled the decision of the office for a second time.
Latvijas Balzams subsequently appealed to the Harju County Court. Latvijas Balzams argued that the court should take into consideration whether the inclusion of the medal in the mark influenced the purchasing decisions of consumers. It further submitted that if use of the medal in the mark did not influence consumers, the mark could not be held to be misleading.
The court rejected the arguments, finding that the use of a wine competition medal on wine labels would influence purchasing decisions, as consumers would assume that the wine is of a higher quality. As Latvijas Balzams did not win the competition itself, use of the medal in the mark was misleading, and was contrary to the Consumer Protection Act, the Competition Act and the Advertising Act.
The Circuit Court and the Supreme Court both upheld the decision of the Harju County Court.
Kärt Laigu, Käosaar & Co, Tallinn
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