10 December 2015Trademarks

FC Barcelona misses CTM target

Professional football club FC Barcelona has been denied a Community trademark (CTM) covering the shape of the club’s crest by the EU General Court.

Today, December 10, the court upheld the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market’s (OHIM) decision to reject the mark on the grounds that the shape does not communicate to consumers the original source of the product.

The application covered a shape which contains seven jagged points spread round a curved bottom and straight top. It surrounds the club’s crest and is worn on the team’s football strip during matches.

OHIM rejected Barcelona’s CTM application in May 2014. The club first applied for protection in 2013.

The football club appealed against the decision, but failed to convince the court to overturn the ruling.

“None of the characteristics of the sign at issue contains any striking feature which is able to attract the attention of consumers,” the court wrote in a statement issued today.

“In fact, the mark sought will rather tend to be perceived by consumers merely as a shape and will not  enable them to distinguish the proprietor’s goods or services from those of other undertakings,” it added.

It concluded that the shape was merely “decorative” and dismissed the CTM application.

Oliver Watson, managing associate at law firm Lewis Silkin, said he was not surprised by the decision.

“Many football clubs, international teams and other sports clubs have and use similar heraldic badges. Consumers would be highly unlikely to be able to tell the difference between any one club or team if just the badge outline was used.

"FC Barcelona could still use the outline of its shield as an unregistered device and then seek at a later date to register it as a trade mark, on the basis that its use of the outline has become distinctive.

“It hadn’t been Barc-ing up the wrong tree, but it may have Piqué-ed a little early," he added.

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