31 May 2018Trademarks

UKIPO serves sweet victory to Noble Desserts in GÜ TM dispute

The company behind dessert brand GÜ has successfully prevented a competitor from registering a trademark which could “negatively impact” its market position.

The UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO)  delivered its decision on Thursday, May 24.

Stonegate Farmers, a specialist egg production company, applied to register ‘Güd Eggs’ as a trademark in the UK in 2016. The mark cover eggs and egg products in class 29.

Registration of the mark was opposed by  Noble Desserts, a food company which describes itself as the leading supplier of fresh eggs to major retailers.

In 2010, Noble acquired London-based dessert company  GÜ Puds for more than £30 million ($40 million).

In its opposition, Noble relied on six European trademarks, four of which comprise the word ‘GÜ’ and two of which comprise the words ‘GÜ-Zillionaires’. The ‘GÜ’ marks are “essentially registered for a range of dessert products”, the IPO said.

Noble argued that ‘Güd’ is the dominant element of Stonegate’s applied-for mark, because the word ‘eggs’ is entirely descriptive of the goods that the mark covers. The marks are highly similar, and a likelihood of confusion exists, according to Noble.

Noble added that the GÜ brand was formed in 2003 and has since gained protectable goodwill in the UK. It also said that 90% of the eggs in GÜ desserts come from its own egg processing business.

The opposition also claimed that Noble previously had a trading relationship with Stonegate, but that the two companies are now competitors.

In response, Stonegate claimed that ‘eggs’ should not be ignored in the comparison of the marks and it would be “improper” to isolate the letters ‘Gü’ from the rest of the mark.

Stonegate also noted that eggs are simply an ingredient in the desserts, and so the goods covered by Noble’s marks and Stonegate’s applied-for mark are not similar.

The IPO said it is “clear” that the GÜ brand has “very strong” protectable goodwill, and “in a passing-off case, it is not necessary for the competing goods to be similar”.

A “reasonably strong” degree of visual similarity and aural similarity exists between the ‘GÜ’ marks and the applied-for mark, the IPO said, although it found “no real similarity in concept”.

Considering the likelihood of confusion, the IPO noted that both products are sold in supermarkets and “a substantial number of relevant customers” would believe that Stonegate’s products and Noble’s products are being offered for sale by the same entity.

The IPO explained that GÜ products are marketed at the “premium end of the market” and, if Stonegate’s products are “not of the same premium quality”, this could “negatively impact” Noble’s market position.

The IPO upheld Noble’s opposition and ordered Stonegate to pay £2,100 ($2,800) towards Noble’s costs.

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