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News blog3 May 2024European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency3 min read

EU General Court rules on Coinbase trade mark dispute - Apple removes Game Boy emulator app over copyright concerns

EU General Court rules on Coinbase trade mark dispute

In Case T-126/22, the General Court of the European Union examined a trade mark dispute concerning an application for the EU word mark 'coinbase' and the earlier registered trade marks of Coinbase Inc, a well-known company in the cryptocurrency world.

In July 2019, Coinbase Global OÜ applied to the EUIPO to register the EU word mark Nº 018090762 'coinbase', covering services in Classes 36 and 41 of the Nice Classification, including financial and banking services, online publishing, education and entertainment.

However, Coinbase Inc, based in California, filed an opposition based on a likelihood of confusion with its earlier international word mark No. 1216587 'COINBASE', covering goods and services in Classes 9, 36 and 42, and its earlier EU figurative mark No. 1268814 'coinbase exchange', covering goods and services in Classes 36 and 42, both marks related to the provision of a financial exchange for trading virtual currencies.

In the first instance, the Opposition Division of the EUIPO partially upheld the opposition, but only in respect of the services in Class 36 covered by the mark applied for, and not for those in Class 41, on the ground that the services included in Class 41 were of a different nature: while the earlier trade marks covered services in this class which focused on trading and digital currency software, the trade mark applied for covered translation and interpretation services, education and entertainment. Coinbase Inc appealed against this decision, but again the Fourth Board of Appeal of the EUIPO dismissed the appeal.

The General Court of the European Union had to determine whether there was a likelihood of confusion between the trade mark applied for, 'coinbase', and Coinbase Inc's earlier trade marks, and whether the services designated by the trade marks were sufficiently similar to justify refusal of the trade mark application.

The Court stressed the need for a detailed analysis of the services offered under each trade mark, given the fact the two signs were identical. It found that the services listed in the trade mark application in Class 41 in Coinbase Global OÜ, such as translation and interpreting services, were different from the goods and services covered by Coinbase Inc.'s earlier trade marks, which related to software programmes and software supply services for financial transactions, virtual currencies and fund management. Therefore, the General Court upheld the EUIPO's decision to dismiss the appeal brought by the US company Coinbase on the grounds that there was no likelihood of confusion between the marks due to the different nature of the services and their different target audiences.

This decision is yet a new reminder that while the Nice Classes serve to distribute and identify goods and services covered by trade marks, the mere fact that goods or services are included in the same Class does not necessarily mean that a risk of confusion will automatically be found if the nature, purpose and target consumers differ.


Apple removes Game Boy emulator app over copyright concerns

Apple's recent decision to remove the iGBA app from its App Store has caused a sensation in the gaming community. The app, developed as a Game Boy emulator, was removed due to copyright issues and spam violations.

Launched on 14 April, iGBA arrived on the scene as an ad-supported replica of the open-source GBA4iOS project, which allowed users to enjoy classic Game Boy games on their iOS devices. Both iGBA and GBA4iOS allow you to download ROMs, which are like digital copies of the game cartridges you used to put in your Game Boy meaning that you can play those classic games on your phone.

While the application was met with enthusiasm, it was removed quickly from the App Store by Apple for violating its copyright policy. Apple's policy clearly states that apps can only include content created by the developer or for which the developer has a valid licence. Failure to comply with this policy can result in the app being removed from the store. In the case of IGBA, which was released without the permission of the developer of the open source emulator GBA4iOS, Riley Testut, Apple had no choice but to remove the app as it was in direct violation of this policy by using content without permission.

It's worth noting that the removal of the iGBA emulator comes at a time when the tech giant is under increasing pressure to take a more open stance on its digital store, particularly in light of the regulatory changes brought about by the EU's Digital Markets Act (DMA). While Apple has recently hinted at greater flexibility towards retro gaming emulators, the fate of iGBA serves as a reminder of Apple's commitment to enforcing its App Store policies.