5 March 2019Trademarks

Furniture company suffers TM defeat before EU General Court

A Croatia-based furniture retailer,  Meblo Trade, has lost an appeal before the European General Court in which it asked the court to revoke a competitors’ trademark.

Earlier today, March 5, the  EU General Court dismissed the appeal to cancel a trademark registered by Slovenia-based retailer  Meblo Int. Meblo Trade had claimed that the mark was not put to genuine use between the period of March 2011 and March 2016.

Meblo Int was granted the contested trademark in 2005, for a figurative black and red sign, with the words ‘MEBLO’ in bold, black text. The trademark was registered under classes 16, 17, 19, 20, 22, 24 and 35.

In March 2017, the European Intellectual Property Office’s (EUIPO) Cancellation Division upheld Meblo Trade’s application to cancel the mark in part and revoked Meblo Int’s trademark in respect of all classes except 20 and 35.

Meblo Trade appealed against the decision regarding classes 20 and 35, but it was dismissed by the EUIPO’s Fourth Board of Appeal.

In its appeal to the General Court, Meblo Trade had argued that the Board of Appeal erred in its decision because it looked at evidence from Meblo Int that was not submitted before the Cancellation Division.

But the General Court said the Board was entitled to rely on all the evidence. It said Meblo Int had submitted additional evidence because Meblo Trade had claimed it has not sufficiently established genuine use of the trademark.

“It is not apparent from the information before the court that Meblo Int abused the time limits set by knowingly employing delaying tactics,” judge Sten Nielsen wrote today.

In its judgment, the court also dismissed Meblo Trade’s argument that any use of the mark in Croatia was only relevant as evidence of genuine use after 2013, when Croatia became an EU member state.

It said that the exporting of goods from Slovenia, which has been an EU member state since 2004, to Croatia may be regarded as genuine use of the mark.

Meblo Trade also argued that Meblo Int’s evidence did not demonstrate genuine use of the contested trademark, but rather use of modified versions of the mark.

But the court ruled that the differences between the registered trademark and the modified versions of the mark “did not alter the distinctive character of the mark”.

Additionally, the court dismissed Meblo Trade’s line of argument that the word ‘meblo’ means furniture and is commonly used to designate furniture.

It said this argument was irrelevant in the context of revocation proceedings for lack of genuine use.

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