Christian Dior submitted Israel Trademark Application Number 264427 for a 3-dimensional perfume bottle as shown.
The Application was submitted on 16 April 2014 for perfumes, perfumery products, eau de parfum, eau de toilette, eau de cologne, extracts of perfumes; perfumed body milk, body oils and body lotions, perfumed body lotion and shower gel, perfumed bath lotions and gels, soaps, perfumed shampoo; make-up products for the face, the eyes, the lips, cosmetics products for the nails and nails care; all included in class 3.
In the first Office Action of 9 August 2015, the Examiner considered the mark as non-registerable under Section 8(a) of the 1972 Trademark Ordinance in light of Circular MN 61 which was then in force, since the mark relates to the three-dimensional package or container for the goods in question.
In that letter, it was stated that the Commissioner could consider allowing a three-dimensional mark in exceptional circumstances where the following three conditions are all fulfilled:
- The mark serves as a trademark in practice
- The mark does not have any real aesthetic or functional purpose
- The mark has acquired distinctiveness through use
In a response from 8 December 2015, the Applicant explained that Christian Dior was a fashion house founded in 1946 for quality goods such as haute couture, perfumes, jewelry and fashion accessories. An affidavit from Riccardo Frediani the General IP Counsel for perfumes was included as part of the response.
The Applicant listed various points that were endorsed by the Affidavit, which were claimed to provide the required distinctiveness:
- The perfume associated with the requested mark was a flagship product
- The perfume was sold under the mark continuously since 1999 and was sold in 130 countries
- The perfume was sold in Israel since 2000 and much effort had been expended in branding and marketing in Israel.
The Applicant explained that the bottle was inspired by the jewelry worn by Masai women, and by 19th century wedding dresses. The bottle design had not changed since it was first introduced.
In addition, the Applicant claims that the fragrance associated with the mark was Dior’s most popular fragrance in Israel and was the fifth most popular fragrance in Israel. These claims were supported by various write-ups and market analysis. Together with the response submitted in December 2015, the Applicant requested that part of the evidence submitted remain confidential as it relates to specific sales and financial data. This confidentiality was granted in a December 2015 interim ruling.
The response of 30 December 2015 was considered sufficient to establish acquired distinctiveness as required by Section 8(b), but the Examiner held that since the applied for mark have previously been registered as a design, it could not be registered as a trademark. The design in question is 3293, registered by Christian Dior in class 9(01) under the titled Perfume bottle on 30 April 2000, which termination on 26 March 2014.
The Examiner considered that the fact that the mark had been registered as a design implied that it was an aesthetic creation and as such could not be registered as a three-dimensional mark in view of paragraph 5.2 of Circular 032/2015 “Trademarks – Requests for Registering Three Dimensional Marks” which regulates the registration of three-dimensional marks that are the objects themselves or their packaging. The Circular states that where the evidence indicates that a product or packaging design serves as a trademark and is neither very aesthetic or very functional; and, through usage has acquired distinctiveness it may be registered (these requirements are inherited from the earlier Circular MN 61), but updated in light of the Supreme Court’s Toffiffee ruling 11487/03 August Storck.
The Applicant requested to appeal the Examiner’s decision and a hearing was held on 28 June 2016.
The Registerability of the Desired Mark
The Commissioner Asa Kling considered that the weight of evidence submitted does indeed show that the bottle mark has acquired distinctiveness. This is evidenced by the sales data, the amount of advertising and exposure of the mark in Israel and abroad, and Frediani’s affidavit is persuasive. The question that remains is whether the mark has a real aesthetic or functional purpose that prevents it from being registered, and if this is not the case, then it is necessary to consider if the shape serves as a trademark in practice.
Circular 032/2015 states that three-dimensional representations of goods or their packaging are not registerable as trademarks if they are inherently distinctive. In such cases they are properly protected as registered designs. It then goes on to give the three conditions detailed above.
In this regard, it is noted that Circular 032/2015 that the Examiner relied upon and which has subsequently been cancelled, was subsequently merged into 033/2015 “Emphases for Examining Trademark Registrations”, which entered into force on 15 December 2016, and since Section 5.2 is included in the new regulation, the cancellation of 032/2015 does not render this discussion moot.
The registerability of three-dimensional marks has been much discussed in the case-law. The basic ruling is the 2008 decision 11487/03 August Storck vbs. Alpha Intuit Food Products ltd. published on 23 March 2008 (the Toffiffee case).
Following this ruling, the Patent Office updated its policy regarding the registerability of three-dimensional marks, resulting in the various Circulars and in a number of rulings.
For example, the 212302 and 212303 Crocs Inc decision of January 2013, the 228232 and 228233 Seven Towns SA decision of November 2012, the 184325 Coca Cola ruling of September 2012 and the 238633 Absolut decision of September 2013.
The problem with deciding whether three-dimensional trademarks are registerable is particularly apparent when considering liqueur or perfume bottles. liqueurs, spirits and perfume do not have a shape and the shape in question is that of the container.
The Applicant claims that the act of registration of the bottle as a design does not prevent it being or becoming a trademark. The Applicant relates to the Toffiffee ruling and understands the Supreme Court as stating that when a product is launched, the three-dimensional shape of the product or package cannot serve as an indication of the manufacturer. At the registration stage, the only protection available is that of a design registration. However, the design may subsequently acquire distinctiveness through use that is identified with the supplier and can therefore subsequently be registered as a trademark.
The Applicant considers that the Supreme Court differentiated between products and packages and that it is not necessarily true that one can draw comparisons between the two categories.
The Applicant claims that there is no bar to the same product being protected both as a design and as a trademark. In the present instance, there is an overlap between the two types of protection. The ‘real aestheticness’ that the Commissioner’s circular considers as preventing registration is different from the aesthetic requirement that is necessary for design registration under the patent and design ordinance; otherwise something registered as a design could never be a trademark.
However, Section 5.2 of the Circular does, nevertheless, refer to something ‘serving a real aesthetic or functional purpose’. The applicant considers that the effort expended in promoting the product that is identified with the bottle has borne fruit, and despite there being no word mark attached to the bottle, the mark is well-known.
Frediani notes that section 1 of the Trademark Ordinance clearly states that three-dimensional marks may be registered:
“Mark” means letters, numerals, words, devices or other signs, or combinations thereof, whether two-dimensional or three-dimensional
And defines a trademark as follows:
“Trade-mark” means a marked used, or intended to be used, by a person in relation to goods he manufactures or deals in;
When considering the registerability of a mark, one should bear in mind the purpose of registration which is to be a means of protecting the manufacturer and seller and of preventing unfair competition, and also to protect the public. See 3559/02 Toto vs. Sports Gambling Authority p.d.. 49 (1) 873, and 3776/06 Ein Gedi Cosmetics vs. Commissioner of Patents May 2008, and also Seligsohn.
Section 2 of the Patents and Design Ordinance states:
“design” means only the features of shape, configuration, pattern or ornament applied to any article by any industrial process or means, whether manual, mechanical or chemical, separate or combined, which in the finished article appeal to, and are judged solely by, the eye, but does not include any mode or principle of construction or anything which is in substance a mere mechanical device.
The registration of a design requires that it is new or original, and not previously published. The purpose of the design is to give an identity or form to a product, it is that which gives it its uniqueness. As the Supreme Court ruled in 7125/98 Mipromal Industries Jerusalem vs. Klil Industries p.d. 57(3) 702:
The protection given to the unique shape of an article is that which the eye is able to comprehend… the form needs to attract the eye of the relevant consumer in a manner that influences the specific choice.
If so, when exposed to a trademark, the consumer’s right is to know the source of goods, whilst respecting the mark owner’s rights to prevent unfair competition. A design right is based on the lines of form of a good and a design that draws the eye of the consumer.
In Toffiffee the Supreme Court stated that the three-dimensional shape of a product may be registered if the owners can prove that it has acquired distinctiveness through use. However, this is with the proviso that it does not have real aesthetic or functional value:
In contrast, the considerations for registering a three-dimensional mark based on the shape of a product is on the basis of acquired distinctiveness. When referring to a good as having a shape that has acquired distinctiveness, we means a shape that causes the consumer to identify the product with a specific source. If it is proven that a good has acquired distinctiveness, it is not important that rarely will the shape be inherently distinct…this means that in those cases where it is proven beyond doubt that the shape serves to distinguish the product – the shape may be registered.
In the Toffiffee case, the court related to the differences between trademarks and other types of intellectual property, including designs, which can coexist in the same product:
It is stressed that where the shape of a good serves as an identifier and differentiator, it serves the function of a trademark. It therefore deserves the protection accorded by trademark laws. It is possible that the same shape is protectable by other types of intellectual property such as designs, or has indeed been protected in this manner. However, since the purpose of trademarks is different from that of other types of intellectual property, the fact that this the shape has already been protected does not prevent it from being protected as a trademark. Furthermore, we are aware that generally the functionality of a mark prevents its registration as a trademark even on the basis of inherent distinctiveness but rather under acquired distinctiveness. We have raised the question of whether this difference between passing off and trademark laws is desirable. That’s as may be, as far as three-dimensional marks consisting of the shape of a product are concerned, there is no choice but to conclude that where the mark is functional (or aesthetic), it prevents it being registered, even if it may be proven that it has acquired distinctiveness. Unless we say this, one may provide an everlasting monopoly for a functional (or aesthetic) shape. This could be very damaging for the market in question.
From here it is clear that a three-dimensional registered trademark can coexist with a design registration for the shape of a product, so long as this does not provide a monopoly to an aesthetic shape that would create an obstruction to marketing in the relevant market. (this accords well with the background in the Toffiffee case.
Based on this, and in light of the guidelines adopted by the Patent and Trademark Office, the shape of a product having a functional or aesthetic nature may not be registered as a trademark where its form serves a major functional or aesthetic purpose, and under these considerations the mark was refused.
The rationale behind this is to prevent the widening of trademark protection beyond its classical purpose and preventing competition. Since a consumer choses a product for its shape, and this is protected with a trademark, he is doing so out of aesthetic considerations based on what attracts the eye and not as an indication of origin. This is clarified by the Absolut vodka case where the design is neither particularly functional nor aesthetic, but is inherently distinctive and is identified with a particularly spirit, and this is the case with spirits and perfumes in general. It appears therefore, that bottles and jars may acquire distinctiveness and be considered as trademarks by the public, however only after years of use.
“Kerly’s Law of Trade Marks and Trade Names“, 15th ed. (2011) p. 199 explains that marks of this nature acquire distinctiveness after years of use.
The European Court of Appeal came to this conclusion in Case T 178/11 Voss of Norway ASA v. OHIM,(28.5.2013) “Absolut”:
“…Average consumers are not in the habit of making assumptions about the origin of products on the basis of their shape or the shape of their packaging in the absence of any verbal or graphic element, and it could therefore prove more difficult to establish distinctive character in relation to such a three-dimensional mark than in relation to a verbal or figurative mark (see Freixenet v OHIM, paragraph 38 above, paragraph 46 and the case-law cited).”
More specifically, as a liquid product must be in a container in a bottle in order to be marketed, the average consumer will perceive the bottle above all simply as a form of container. A three-dimensional trade mark consisting of such a bottle is not distinctive unless it permits the average consumer of a product of that kind, who is reasonably well-informed and reasonably observant and circumspect, to distinguish the product in question from that of other undertakings without any detailed examination or comparison and without being required to pay particular attention (Case C‑218/01 Henkel  ECR I‑1725, paragraph 53, and Case T‑399/02 Eurocermex v OHIM (Shape of a beer bottle)  ECR II‑1391, paragraph 24, upheld on appeal in Case C‑286/04 P Eurocermex v OHIM  ECR I‑5797).”
Since we are not considering something that it aesthetic per se, but rather what is primarily a shape that serves the commercial purpose of linking a good with its supplier, the aesthetic aspect is secondary and less significant.
From here, if the Applicant manages to provide that the commercial considerations for choosing the product are dominant and that the shape of the product or the packaging actually serve as a trademark far beyond the aesthetic aspects, it may be registered.
As a general rule, as stated in the Toffiffee ruling, in some cases a product may benefit as both a trademark and as a design. As explained by Derclaye and Leistner- Intellectual Property Overlaps- A European Perspective (2011), p. 61:
Since a design is the appearance of a product and can be in two or three dimensions, there can be overlap with two and three dimensions trademarks; for instance, packaging, get-up and graphic symbol, which the Design Directive cites as examples of possible products in which design right can subsist, as well as logos, can also be signs that can be registered as trademarks.
Thus, design right can be acquired first, and then trademark applied for later when the public has been educated to recognize the packaging as a trademark, ie consumers only see it as indicating the origin of the goods as coming from a single company”.
This case relates to a trademark application for a perfume bottle that has a wide base, a narrow neck and a round stopper. The neck is coiled, and, as the Applicant noted, it was inspired by the Masai women’s jewelry. There is no name or other element that says Christian Dior. The bottle has aesthetic elements that have some weight but the shape has acquired distinctiveness which should be given more weight.
The J’Adore perfume bottle has been widely advertised in various media in Israel and abroad and has been in constant use since 1999. The consumer does not purchase the perfume because of liking the shape of the bottle so much as because he identifies the bottle with the contents which is the product.
As a distinctive shape, the bottle was registered as a design, but over time, it has acquired distinctiveness as a container for the specific fragrance and thus serves as a trademark. The commissioner does not think that allowing the mark to be registered prevents competition in the field.
The application is returned to the Examiner for registration, with the proviso that it is clearly labeled as being a three-dimensional mark.
Ruling re Israel Trademark Number 274427, J’Adore 3D Perfume Bottle, Asa Kling 26 February 2017.
I have a friend and neighbor who is genealogically half Masai and half Jewish. To me, David is tall and black. However, I am told that in Kenya where he was born, he was considered short and Jewish looking. He explained to me that the coiled gold extended necks of Masai women was a method of controlling them. If they misbehaved, their husbands could remove the jewelry and their neck bones would be unable to support their heads. The husbands could then take new and more obedient wives. I find this jewelry sinister and would not personally want to use it as inspiration for a perfume bottle. That said, I don’t see a problem in providing long-term protection for distinctive bottle shapes as trademarks, so long as functional shapes are not monopolized in this manner. The ruling is a correct one.
I don’t think that a judge would accept arguments that the Dior registration should prevent Tia Maria being sold in a long stripy necked bottle. This case is not analogous to Disney taking characters that are copyright protected and converting into trademarks to keep them from entering the public domain. It does raise interesting questions regarding the iconic Croc beach sandal that was registered as a trademark. Croc should be able to continue using their clog design as a trademark for branding purposes, but should not be able to act against other manufacturers of substantially identical beach clogs. I think that the less said about the Seven Towns cube decision, the better.