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News blog5 July 2024European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency4 min read

EU trade mark disputes: gps global power service - EU General Court rules over Beyond Chocolate trade mark

EU trade mark disputes: gps global power service

On 19 June, in case T-312/23, the General Court of the European Union issued a decision in a dispute between the EU trade mark "gps global power service" and two earlier Spanish trade marks "GPG global power generation".

In December 2018, the Italian company Global Power Service SpA applied to the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) to register the sign "gps global power service" as an EU figurative trade mark (which took the shape of the three letters GPS written in large font with the “global power service” words under it in a smaller font), covering a wide range of services in classes 35, 36, 37, 42 and 45 of the Nice Classification, including management assistance and consultancy in the energy sector, financial services, installation services for products for the production and distribution of electricity, gas and water, and consultancy on energy saving measures. However, the Spanish company Naturgy Energy Group opposed the registration on the basis of its two earlier Spanish figurative marks, Nos 3532662 and 3547217, containing the sign "GPG global power generation" (with the letters GPG in a large font and the words “global power generation” in a smaller font under it), covering services in classes 35, 37 and 42. 

The Opposition Division and the Board of Appeal of the (EUIPO) rejected the opposition on the grounds that there was no likelihood of confusion between the marks at issue. They considered that given the nature of the services for which these trade marks were used, the level of attention of the relevant public for these services varied from above average to high and that there was only a low degree of similarity between the conflicting signs, which excluded any likelihood of confusion.

Naturgy Energy Group appealed the EUIPO decision to the General Court of the European Union, which had to decide whether there was a likelihood of confusion between the trade marks in dispute.

The Court dismissed the appeal and upheld the EUIPO's decision that the differences between the marks were sufficient to avoid any likelihood of confusion. As regards the relevant public for the services in question, the Court stated that these trade marks were directed at consumers of a professional profile with a high level of attention, which influenced the perception of the marks and the assessment of the likelihood of confusion. 


EU General Court rules over Beyond Chocolate trade mark

On 12 June, in case T-343/23, the General Court of the European Union had to decide whether the sign 'Beyond Chocolate' meets the requirements of distinctiveness laid down in the EUTMR for its registration as a trade mark in the European Union.

In October 2021, a Germany-based company, Katjes Fassin GmbH & Co. KG, filed an application with the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) for registration of the word mark 'Beyond Chocolate' as an EU trade mark (N. 018578274) for goods such as confectionery, sweets, chocolate and cocoa-based food products in Class 30 of the Nice Classification.

Both the first instance examiner and the EUIPO Board of Appeal rejected the application on the basis of Article 7(1)(b) of the EUTMR. They considered that the mark applied for lacks distinctiveness because it conveys an obvious meaning to the relevant public by promising something more than chocolate. In addition, due to its semantic content, which suggests a characteristic of the products related to their commercial value without being precise, it would be interpreted as promotional or advertising information rather than an indication of the commercial origin of the products. The German company appealed to the General Court of the European Union, which upheld the decision of the EUIPO to reject the registration of the mark "Beyond Chocolate" on the grounds that it was indeed devoid of any distinctive character.

The Court held that the expression 'Beyond Chocolate' was not unusual in terms of English grammatical, phonetic or semantic rules. It only conveyed a simple and clear message to the public, promising an experience beyond conventional chocolate. It therefore lacked the originality or uniqueness required to be distinctive in relation to the goods in question. 

Although the appellant claimed the existence of a practice of naming "evocative marks" which had developed in the field of vegetarian products, such as "next-level meat" or "impossible chicken" for meat substitutes, the General Court pointed out that in those cases the products, although similar to meat products, did not consist of meat. On the other hand, the words 'beyond chocolate', which have a direct and concrete relationship with the goods designated by the mark applied for, such as sweets, chocolates and cocoa-based goods, do not trigger any cognitive process on the part of the relevant public, which in this case was considered to be the general public, since the goods in question are intended to be consumed by a wide range of people.