Pharmacists lose fight against CONCRETE PHARMACY

Denmark

In Board of Appeal for Patents and Trademarks v Danish Association of Pharmacists (Case 420/2001), the Supreme Court has overruled a decision by the Maritime and Commercial Court not to allow the registration of a mark containing the word 'apoteket' (pharmacy), which is protected under Danish law. The Supreme Court's decision to allow the registration is expected to have important consequences for protected titles and designations in Denmark.

In 1996 Beton-apoteket, a Danish company, filed an application to register the trademark BETON-APOTEKET, meaning 'concrete pharmacy', in relation to products that repair and protect concrete.

The Danish Association of Pharmacists opposed the registration on the grounds that 'apoteket' is reserved for use by authorized entities under Danish law (as are other titles and designations, such as 'doctor' and 'bank'). The Patent and Trademark Office rejected the opposition because the term 'beton-apoteket' does not give rise to any association with the medical field. The Board of Appeal for Patents and Trademarks affirmed.

The Maritime and Commercial Court in Copenhagen overruled the Board of Appeal's decision, holding that use of the designation 'apoteket' should be very limited, pursuant to the explanatory notes in the Law on Pharmacists. Furthermore, the court ruled that the trademark would damage the goodwill associated with the 'apoteket' designation.

The Supreme Court overruled this decision, finding that the Patent and Trademark Office and Board of Appeal were right to have allowed the registration. The Supreme Court stated that the provisions in the Law on Pharmacists protect the word 'apoteket' for health-related reasons. The trademark BETON-APOTEKET, ruled the court, does not present any risk of confusion with the medical field, and use of the mark would not be contrary to the Law on Pharmacists.

Lisbet Andersen, Bech-Bruun Dragsted, Copenhagen

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