Update from the Finnish courts


Hanna Nylund and Davide Battistelli

Is ‘X L N T’ excellent?

In case MAO:505/14, the Finnish Market Court considered whether the Kappahl Sverige AB (Kappahl) international trademark ‘X L N T’ can be registered for clothing in Class 25 in Finland. The Finnish Patent and Registration Office (PRH) had denied Kappahl’s application due to lack of distinctiveness. 

The court reasoned that ‘xlnt’ is short for ‘excellent’ and is commonly used as an abbreviation in SMS messages. It is also included in some English dictionaries. When evaluating the trademark’s distinctiveness, attention shall not be paid to the space between the letters X, L, N and T, but to the abbreviation xlnt itself. The fact that xlnt is lacking distinctiveness in the English language does not automatically mean that it cannot be distinctive in Finland—it depends on whether the average Finnish consumer understands the meaning of the English abbreviation.

According to a market survey conducted by the applicant, 59% of the respondents did not associate the word ‘xlnt’ with anything particular. Only 9% associated ‘xlnt’ with ‘excellent’ (in Finnish and/or English). The court found that Finnish consumers cannot be expected to understand the meaning of an English abbreviation listed in foreign dictionaries, especially since it is not used commonly. The literal meaning of trademark ‘X L N T’ is not generally known among Finnish consumers and is therefore distinctive. The court reversed the PRH’s decision.

trademark; Pfizer; CJEU