25 February 2016Trademarks

General Court ends Puma cat fight

The General Court of the European Union (CJEU) has overturned a ruling by the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM) which said that a trademark application for a jumping cat-like creature was not too similar to an existing mark owned by sportswear brand Puma.

In a decision handed down today, February 25, the General Court said that the decision from OHIM’s Fifth Board of Appeal should be cancelled.

The dispute started in 2012 when shoe company Sinda Poland applied for a Community trademark (CTM) for a feline-like creature in a jumping position.

Puma, citing its established CTM for a logo showing a leaping Puma, opposed the mark later that year.

In September 2013, OHIM’s Opposition Division rejected the opposition on the grounds that the signs were different, prompting Puma to appeal against the decision.

But in a judgment handed down in July 2014, the appeals board upheld the opposition division’s ruling.

It ruled that the applied-for CTM seemed to be composed of “two or more animals together in one” and that it was impossible to distinguish a specific animal.

It added that parts of the body of the creature represented resembled parts of different animals.

Puma appealed against the ruling to the General Court.

Sinda Poland claimed the court should throw out Puma’s claims, while Puma claimed the court should dismiss the action and order Sinda Poland to pay costs.

In its ruling, the court said the appeals board failed to take into account the similarity of the marks and ordered OHIM and Sinda Poland to bear their own costs, including costs incurred by Puma during the OHIM proceedings.

The court ruled: “The court finds that the mark applied for and the earlier mark are both black silhouettes of animals … the curves of the back and belly of the two animals depicted are not identical but have undeniable similarities.”

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