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9 September 2010

Court of Justice of the European Union Confirms Single Letter Trade Marks Can be Registered

Court of Justice of the European Union Confirms Single Letter Trade Marks Can be Registered

The Court of Justice of the European Union has today issued its ruling in Case C?265/09, OHIM v BORCO-Marken-Import Matthiesen GmbH & Co KG. This case concerned an appeal by OHIM against the decision of the General Court to annul the Board of Appeal's refusal of the application under Article 7(1)(b) CTMR.

The sign in question was a figurative representation of the letter "a" in respect of "alcoholic beverages (except beers), wines, sparkling wines and beverages containing wine" in Class 33. In reality, the letter "a" appeared in a fairly standard font. The General Court held that the Board of Appeal had erred in reaching the conclusion that single letters lacked the minimum level of distinctive character. The assessment that single letters should remain available to all was contrary to Article 4 of the Trade Marks Directive and the Board of Appeal had misapplied Article 7(1)(b) CTMR.

The Court of Justice said that it should be borne in mind that registration of a sign as a trade mark is not subject to a finding of a specific level of linguistic or artistic creativity or imaginativeness on the part of the proprietor of the trade mark. We anticipate that this decision could result in numerous speculative applications for single letter trade marks in the near future.

The full decision is available here.

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