Of models and makes: the saga continues?


Steinar Lie

The very observant reader might recall our article regarding the practice adopted by NIPO with respect to marks that were said to be perceived as so-called ‘model indications’ only.

The practice was spurred by two decisions of the NIPO appeal board refusing the marks L400 and S380 for the reason that they lacked distinctive character for class 12 goods (vehicles).

The decisions argued that that “it is common knowledge” that combinations of letters and numbers are used in “many industries, including the car industry” to distinguish the goods of individual manufacturers from each other. According to the board, this would affect the expectations of the average consumer, and he or she would perceive the subject mark only as an identifier for one of the holder’s different models. There was a need to keep such identifiers free for the use of others.

Since the board did not specify in which industries this was “common knowledge”, the administrative practice shift that followed involved general refusals of all marks consisting of combinations of letters and numbers for all goods in many different classes where the concept of “models” could possibly be an issue. Rather superfluously, the legal advisors also decided to refuse non-descriptive three-letter marks for vehicles, for the reason that they could be perceived as mere model indications.

NIPO, automotive