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Libertel Groep BV v Benelux-Merkenbureau

[2003] Case C-104/01

Case summary last updated at 31/01/2020 14:30 by the Oxbridge Notes in-house law team.

Judgement for the case Libertel Groep BV v Benelux-Merkenbureau

C was a mobile phone company. Sought to register trade mark for colour orange in relation to certain telecommunication goods and services. Two issues in case:
i)       Can a colour constitute a trademark?
ii)     Is the application distinctive?
Held:
 
‘Sign’
·       In relation to a product or service, a colour per se is capable of constituting a sign.
·       With regards what may constitute ‘sign’:
 
i)        Colour sampledoes not suffice
–       i.e. as colour fades over time
–       thus not durable
ii)       Verbal description of colour may suffice
–       But only if sufficiently clear and precise
–       This will not normally be case
iii)     Designation from an international colour codemay suffice
–       i.e. as this is sufficiently clear and durable
iv)     Use of colour sample, verbal description and designation from an international colour code in combinationmay suffice.
 
Distinctiveness
·       Colour marks usually not distinctive
Ø  i.e. as colour is simply a property of a good
Ø  thus consumers not used to making assumptions as to origin on basis of a colour
·       Thus is practically impossible for a colour to be distinctive without prior use.
·       Additionally, is public interest in keeping use of colours free for other traders.
Ø  Thus less likely that colour can be registered for large group of goods than for a specific good.

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