Travelex loses fight over euro symbol

European Union

In Travelex Global and Financial Services Ltd v European Commission, the European Court of First Instance has rejected the plaintiff's €25.5 million claim for damages over trademark rights in the euro currency symbol. The court reasoned that the defendant did not use the symbol in the course of trade and therefore did not infringe the plaintiff's rights.

Travelex, the financial and travel services company, brought the infringement claim arguing that the official euro symbol - designed in 1996 and adopted by the European Union for its common currency - closely resembles its own trademark which was registered in several EU member states between 1991 and 1993. The UK company argued that the European Commission's use of the official symbol on hats and scarves infringed its rights by diluting its mark.

Although Travelex's trademark and the European Union's official euro symbol are nearly identical, the court found that the commission's use of the official euro symbol to designate the single currency did not amount to use in the course of trade and therefore did not infringe Travelex's rights in its registered trademark. The court considered Arsenal Football Club plc v Reed, in which the European Court of Justice found that the phrase 'use in the course of trade' includes use of a sign identical to a trademark where it takes place in the context of commercial activity with a view to economic advantage. In the present case, the distribution of hats and scarves bearing the official euro symbol to government officials and to the press was not intended to promote the sale of products bearing the euro symbol. Instead, the commission used the symbol only as a means of designating the single currency.

Mark Lubbock, Ashurst Morris Crisp, London

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