19 June 2020Trademarks

CJEU cancels ‘descriptive’ Russian ice cream mark

The EU’s top court has affirmed the cancellation of a trademark for ‘Plombir’ for ice cream, because it is descriptive in the Russian language.

The  ruling, issued yesterday, June 18, is the conclusion of a long-running dispute between two German companies over the brand.

Monolith Frost, a subsidiary of wholesaler  Monolith Gruppe, applied to cancel Hamburg food company  Dovgan’s ‘Plombir’ EU trademark in 2014.

The mark, which covers dairy products in classes 29 and 30, refers to a type of ‘ice cream’ in Russian (when transliterated into Latin characters from Russian’s Cyrillic script), Monolith argued.

That meant that Russian-speakers in the EU would perceive the mark as descriptive of the goods and services it covered, which specifically include ice cream.

The case made its way to the EU General Court which, in 2018, sided with Monolith. According to the General Court, members of the public in the EU, namely the Baltic states, would be able to perceive the meaning of the mark.

The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) had wrongly limited the ‘relevant public’ to Russian speakers in Germany, the General Court ruled.

Dovgan appealed against the General Court’s judgment to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).

In yesterday’s decision, the CJEU backed the General Court’s findings and threw out Dovgan’s appeal.

The Hamburg company, backed by the EUIPO, said it had not been proven that the mark was a generic Russian term referring to ice cream.

But Monolith had presented evidence throughout the proceedings from the Russian Federation’s official linguistic standards body, the State Committee of the Russian Federation for Standardization, Metrology and Certification, which proved its case, the CJEU ruled.

Dovgan and the EUIPO were each ordered to bear their own costs, while Dovgan must also pay the costs of Monolith.

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