Israel Supreme Court Rejects Appeal from Shukha Trademark Infringers

June 9, 2017

shukhaThere are two branches of the Shukha family that market oil and other food stuffs: Sons of George Shukha ltd. and Antoine Shukha and Sons ltd.

Sons of George Shukha ltd, which also imports and distributes rice, have 27 registered trademarks including the name Shukra in English, Hebrew and Arabic.  The earliest registered mark is from 1984 but one mark is for Sons of George Shukra from 1930.

Over a six-year period, the Sons of George Shukha ltd attempted to enforce their marks through the courts with the parties reaching an agreement that allowed Antoine Shukra and Sons to use labels that include the name Shukra in a font size no larger than that for Antoine and Sons and together with a logo. The settlement, though ratified by the court, was not fulfilled and so Sons of George Shukha ltd. appealed to the Supreme Court. Antoine Shukra and Sons submitted various creative arguments arguing that since the size of their oil containers was larger, the agreed size of the label was no longer reasonable. They also claimed that the ruling only related to the name Shukra in Arabic. They submitted that two weeks to recall and remove all infringing products from the shelves was too short a period, and the penalty of 2500 Shekels for every day delay would cripple them.

Supreme Court Judge Amit pointed out that unless the penalty for failing to enforce was crippling, infringing parties would simply continue to prevaricate. He noted that in two of the three counts of continued infringement, Antoine Shukra and Sons acknowledged that they were infringing, and in the third case, where the issues that received court endorsement related to the size used for the name Shukra and to it being used together with a logo, even if there was some grounds to consider the Appeal based on font size, the infringers were not displaying the logo prominently. He refused to reconsider issues ruled on by District Judge but noted that the District Court judge had stated that the Appellants had made various claims in affidavits but withdrew them during the hearing, and had generally acted in bad faith.

Judge Amit noted that with financial penalties for failing to enforce, staying a ruling during Appeal was generally not appropriate since a monetary ruling could rectify any issues. Judge Amit refused to stay the enforcement, but granted a 30 days instead of 14 days for it to be enforced.  By the end of this period, the Appellants have to provide a full record od what was done to recall or relabel the infringing goods. Costs of 5000 Shekels were awarded to Sons of George Shukha ltd.

Appeal 4113/17 Sone of George Shukra ltd. vs. Antoine Shukra and Sons ltd. and various members of the Shukra clan and related companies. 8 June 2017


Costs Award for Drink Point Competing Marks Proceeding

June 9, 2017

Where two parties file confusingly similar or identical trademark applications in Israel, such that both are co-pending, a competing marks proceeding ensues under Section 29 of the Trademark Ordinance 1972. More important that who filed first, are the issues of inequitable behavior and the scope of use.

On 20 May 2012 Assaf Nakdai and Benny Molayof submitted Israel trademark application no. 246704 for DRINK POINT covering business management and business administration; office functions; advertisements; sales promotion; sale of alcoholic beverages; included in class 35.

On the same day Drink Point LTD submitted the identical mark for services for providing food and drink; all included in class 43

250525Then on 9 October 2017, Drink Point LTD submitted an application for the same mark for business management, advertisements and sales promotion (including sale of alcohol); all included in class 35 and on 23 October 2017 Drink Point LTD submitted an application for the stylized mark shown alongside.

On 8 March 2017 Assaf Nakdai and Benny Molayof withdrew their application following a ruling by Judge Cochava Levy of the Tel Aviv – Jaffa Magistrate’s Court. Consequently on 12 March 2017, the Deputy Commissioner terminated the competing marks proceeding and allowed Drink Point’s applications to proceed to examination.

Drink Point LTD requested 14,200 Shekels in costs, alleging inequitable behavior and costs incurred in the corresponding court proceeding.

Ruling

In the ruling, the Deputy Commissioner reiterated the principle that the winning party were entitled to recoup their actual costs. However, she could only consider costs incurred in the competing marks proceeding, not those relating to the court ruling which should be addressed to that court. Furthermore, she was not convinced that Nakdai and Molayof had acted inequitably. The invoices submitted for Drink Point ltd’s lawyer’s fees were not sufficiently detailed to be considered. Therefore, she estimated an appropriate fee for the amount of work performed and ruled 7000 Shekels costs.


3D Vision – virtual-reality reality

June 8, 2017

3dvision3DVision LTD submitted Israel trademark application no. 273325 for “3DVISION” on 25 March 2015. The mark covers Services of design, construction, building and designing websites; design and development services, namely, development services of technological solutions, software development services, web hosting services and content management services, visual communication design, graphic design services; graphic and architectural simulations design services using computer software; computer services, namely, design services and development services of three-dimensional movies, pictures, motion pictures with sound, audio and visual aids; Creative services, namely, design and development of computer software and consulting services related thereto; design of animated websites; design services of websites for marketing and advertising purposes; design services of graphic illustration services for others; design services of customized multimedia products for educational, marketing, training, demonstrational, presentation, architectural, engineering and development purposes; design services of multimedia products in the form of applications of computer graphics and website hosting services for the exchange of graphics, images, text, computer simulations, architectural simulations, marketing and promotional videos between the parties, all in class 42 .

The trademark department considered the mark as indicating three-dimensional perception and lacking distinctiveness for the relevant goods and services. Since other service providers used the term as well, they refused it under Section 8(a) of the Israel Trademark Ordinance 1972, and also considered it as contravening section 11(10) as being descriptive. Although the mark was filed in a specific font, the Examiner considered the san serif font as not having the minimal styling to render the mark registerable.

Furthermore, the mark was considered confusingly similar to Israel trademark number 191734 for D-Vision in class 34, but that mark lapsed on 30 January 2017 due to non-payment of the renewal fee.

On 28 December 2015 the Applicant argued that the mark had acquired distinctiveness through usage and was associated exclusively with the Applicant and thus was registerable under Section 8b of the Ordinance. The Applicant argued that the mark has been in use for 13 years and the public was exposed to it in various media including via the Internet. The Applicant also noted that since 2003 they had been using the identical Internet domain (not stylized) and had similar pages and channels in various social media including Facebook and YouTube for over five years. This exposure, continued usage and marketing investment had resulted in the mark being well-known for virtual reality and animation in the real estate business [MF – Virtual Reality Reality?]. An affidavit by the CEO was submitted to support these claims. Read the rest of this entry »


White Beer brewed by Different Monks Not Confusingly Similar

June 7, 2017

benediktineThe Bitburger Braugruppe GmbH applied for Israel Trademark No. 270167 for beer and non-alcoholic beverages in classes 32 and for education and catering services in class 43. The mark includes the words Benediktiner Weissbier and a picture of a Benedictine monk.

FranciscanBefore the mark was examined, Spaten-Franziskaner-Bräu GmbH applied for Israel Trademark No. 273567 for beer and non-alcoholic beverages in classes 32. The mark includes the words Franziskaner Weissbier and a picture of a Franciscan monk.

The Israel Trademark Department considered the marks as being confusingly similar and instituted a competing marks proceeding under Section 29 of the Trademark Ordinance.

Both sides presented their evidence as to who should prevail, but before a date was fixed for a hearing, they hammered out a coexistence agreement and agreed on steps to be taken to minimize the likelihood of the public being confused.

The Deputy Commissioner, Ms Jacqueline Bracha considered that the agreement was acceptable and the two trademarks could coexist.

The Benedictine beer (not to be confused with the liqueur that was a favorite tipple of the last Lubavicher Rebbe) is brewed in a brewery founded in 1609 and has a special recipe used by the monks. Since introduced into Israel in 2012, six million shekels has been spent on advertising and hundreds of thousands of liters were sold each year.

The Franciscan brewery claims to date back to the 14th century and that its label was designed in Munich in 1935. They have a registered trademark in Israel from 1936, and the applied for trademark has been used since 2008 for hundreds of thousands of liters.

Section 30 of the Trademark Ordinance allows for coexistence of marks for the same or similar goods where the Commissioner considers that marks are applied for in good faith.  Since the marks have coexisted for five years in Israel (and are known worldwide) and there is no grounds to conclude that one side or the other is trying to benefit from the competitor’s reputation.

The names sound very different when pronounced and the images of the monks are well established for beers.

The Deputy Commissioner then related to dove cosmetics and to the biosensor ruling and concluded that there was no likelihood of confusion.

Coexistence of the two marks is allowed.

COMMENT

This is a little like the joke about the Jew who was beaten up for sinking the Titanic… iceberg, Goldberg, what’s the difference?

Anyone with any sensitivity to monk habits would easily differentiate between Benediktine and Franciscan monks. Benedictine, being black friars would not be seen dead in brown habits. Franciscans, eschewing wealth, wear habits of peasant fabric, and being capucians, have distinctive hoods on their habits.

Perhaps more significantly, images of barley are generic for beer, and the term weissbier just means pale ale, or lager. Since beer has been brewed by monks for centuries, the image of a monk or someone holding a tankard is hardly distinctive. Even the most inebriated would realize that all the above simply indicate beer, and the it is specifically the terms Franziskaner and Benediktiner that indicate the flavour. Those unable to tell the difference would probably not care what they are drinking anyway.

Because of shipping costs, improrted beer from Germany is relatively expensive and these beers are considered as premium brands. the volume of sales is similar in each case and though adequate to demonstrate that they are established locally, their combined market sector is only a small fraction of beer sales. The Arab population does not drink beer at all, and those willing and able to purchase these lagers are generally well educated and discerning. Coexistence is a reasonable outcome in the circumstances. Furthermore, since the parties proposed coexistence, it is unlikely that anyone will appeal this decision.

 

 


Aluminium Profile Trademark Ruling Survives Appeal to Supreme Court

June 7, 2017

On 16th November, we reported that the District Court has upheld Deputy Commissioner Ms Bracha’s Decision not to allow registration of Israel trademark application 240319 filed by AL-SHURKAH ALWATANEYA LISENAET AL-ALAMENYOM WALPROFILAT (National Aluminum & Profile Co or NAPCO) following an opposition proceeding by  Extal LTD.

240139

Not content, NAPCO appealed to the Supreme Court and Extal filed a counter-appeal.

Judge Meni Mazuz has upheld the ruling and Appeal. He does not consider the issue of general public interest.

NAPCO lost their mark for failure to pay the renewal fee. Judge Mazuz does not consider that a now non-registered mark has to be a well-known mark to prevent registration of a confusingly similar mark, and that Deputy Commissioner Bracha was acting within her discretion in her ruling to not allow the mark to be registered.

Judge Mazuz did not consider that any fundamental rights were lost by requiring a different extrusion marking to be applied to profiles.


Smash

May 7, 2017

smash3Talber Pop LTD owns Israel trademark number 240598 “SMASH” for Notebooks, stationery, diaries, binders; gift wrapping paper, paper gift wrapping bows, paper cake decorations, paper party bags, loot bags, cello bags, paper party decorations, paper party hats, paper tables cloths, paper napkins, banner made of paper and/or cardboards; all included in class 16, and Backpacks, sidepacks, back bags, side bags, sport bags, tote bags, book bags, school bags, food bags, pencil cases sold empty, wallets, waist packs, briefcases, bike bags, toiletry cases sold empty, fanny packs, suitcases, umbrellas, umbrella covers; all included in class 18. They also own a second Israel trademark number 241238 for SMASH in class 14 covering watches, chronometers and their parts.

On 30 December 2017, Smash Enterprises Pty LTD submitted a request to cancel the marks or to allow their marks to be co-registered. On 2 March 2016, Talber Pop responded with their Counter-Statement of Case.

The request for cancellation followed an attempt by Smash Enterprises Pty LTD to register their Israel Trademark Application 274301. After various extensions were authorized, on 26 January 2017 the parties submitted a joint request for coexistence based on a civil court ruling under which they undertook to differentiate their services and goods.

Smash Enterprises Pty LTD’s mark was in class 21 and covered containers for household or kitchen use; household or kitchen utensils; containers for beverages; containers for food; heat insulated containers for beverages; heat retaining containers for food and drink; insulated containers; lunch boxes; isothermic bags; bottles including water bottles (containers); beverage coolers (containers); drinking containers; portable coolers; ice containers; ice packs; plastic containers (household utensils); lids for household or kitchen containers; tableware, including plates, dishes, drinking glasses, bowls, cups, saucers, mugs and jugs, all being of plastic materials; cooking utensils for use with domestic barbecues; storage boxes, baskets and containers for household use; household rubbish containers (bins); glassware for domestic use; ceramic tableware; baking trays; storage jars; cooler bags; thermally insulated bags for food and drink.

Essentially, the two parties are interested in co-registration of Israel TM 274301 to Smash Enterprises together with those registered by Talber Pop LTD. (Smash Enterprises did have a second application in class 18, but seem to have abandoned that, as to allow the same mark for similar goods in the same class is particularly difficult).

The Commissioner can allow co-registration under Section 30a for identical or similar marks for identical or similar goods if the application to do is filed in good faith or if there are extenuating circumstances that allows coexistence.

The wording of Section 30(a) is as follows:

Where it appears to the Registrar that there is honest concurrent use, or where there are other special circumstances which in his opinion justify the registration of identical or similar trade marks for the same goods or description of goods by more than one proprietor, the Registrar may permit such registration subject to such conditions and limitations, if any as he may think fit. (b) A decision of the Registrar under subsection (a) shall be subject to appeal to the Supreme Court. The appeal shall be filled within thirty days from the date of the decision of the Registrar. In the appeal, the Court shall have all the powers conferred upon the Registrar under subsection (a). 

The Applicant for coexistence has to prove that he is acting in good faith. Furthermore, he has to establish that despite the marks being identical or apparently similar to those registered, there is no practical risk that the consumer will confuse between the marks. In this regard, in the 87779/04 Yotvata vs. Tnuva ruling it is stated that:

In rulings [based on Section 30a of the Ordinance] the emphasis will be on the equitable behavior of the parties adopting the mark and on the need to protect the public from similar marks that might create misleading or unfair competition (Friedman p. 431).

See also 48827-03-14 Biosensors Europe SA vs. Commissioner of Patents from 22 February 2015:

The burden of proof that there is no likelihood of confusion falls on the two companies interested in the co-registration, and they have to prove that for many years they used the marks in Israel without the public being confused.

In this regard, the main thread running through the Ordinance is that identical or confusingly similar marks should not be registered if they will mislead the public. Thus in  10959/05 Delta Lingerie S.A.O.F vs Cachan Tea Board, India :7.12.06 :

Confusion and the risk of misleading is the living breath of the Ordinance. This is the main danger that we have to deal with. The various options of Section 11 that list marks that may not be registered reflect different types of confusion, and way to prevent them.

Where marks are more confusingly similar, the level of evidence that is required to show that there is no danger in their both being registered by Commissioner discretion under Section 30a is higher. See for example, the ruling concerning Israel TMs 24886 and 233056 Orbinka Investments LTD vs Now Securites Ohr Yehuda 1989 ltd., 24 July 2015 and 252115, 244719 Gaudi Trade SPA vs. Guess, Inc., 27 July 2016.

Alternatively, the Commissioner has to consider whether there are other special considerations that allow identical or similar marks for identical or similar goods.

In this instance the parties have reached a coexistence agreement following arbitration before Adv. Gai-Ron, and the Arbitrator of IP prefers constructive discussion and compromise rather than judicial ruling that are all or nothing. Nevertheless, the mere fact that the parties are interested in co-existing is insufficient to allow it where the is a likelihood of confusion. The Commissioner has the sole authority and responsibility to ensure that the Israel public are not confused by such marks, and such agreements are no more than an indication that must be weighed up with other considerations before allowing co-existence. See 1611/07 Micha Danziger vs. Shmuel Mor, 23 August 2012: 

The desire of the parties that grow and market Gypsophila is one thing. The registration of confusingly similar marks is something else. Furthermore, and this is the important point – we are not relating to the parties’ consent, but to the balances in the law. The prohibition to register the requested mark is based on the need to protect consumers that were not party to the agreement between appellant and defender, (although such agreements may be indicative as part of a general analysis).

Thus it cannot be disputed that the Commissioner is not obliged to follow agreements between the parties. Nevertheless, in appropriate circumstances and where such agreements are valid, the Commissioner may allow co-existence based on such agreements – see 10105-05-16 Campalock ltd vs Commissioner of Patents, Trademarks and Designs 4/12/16.

In this instance, the parties submitted a two paragraph laconic request for co-existence stating that they had reached an agreement. However it is not enough to negotiate an agreement that serves the interests of the parties. A request to allow two pending applications to coexist or for a new application to be registered alongside an existing one must be justified by a detailed explanation showing why the public will not be confused.

There is no way to relate to whether the sides behaved equitably since the case should be closed before a hearing is conducted. The parties did not even address this issue in their request. The  marks are identical for the word SMASH and there is certainly a similarity between schoolbags in class 18 and food bags and drink containers in Class 21 since these goods could be sold in the same retail outlets and there is therefore a room for confusion between goods in classes 18 and 21.

The Examiner reached a similar conclusion when she objected to the 2743011 mark under Section 11(9), and mere consent of the owner of a mark cited against a pending mark is insufficient to overcome a Section 11(9) objection.

The agreement does list the steps that the parties have undertaken to take, but this is insufficient. Firstly, the mark owner of the registered marks undertakes not to use a logo similar to that of the Applicant for cancellation, but the logo is not appended. An agreement not to use the same graphic is too narrow since the degree of similarity that is allowed is not related to. The registration would cause the register to be different from that happening in business.

Under the agreement, the side requesting cancellation would have the sole right to use the mark for boxes and containers for storing food and drink and the mark owner would be prohibited from so-doing. However, the mark owner’s registration 240598 (group 18) includes “food bags”. Food bags are essentially food storage bags. There is thus an overlap which creates confusion.

Thus the Arbitrator Ms Shoshani Caspi finds herself considering two identical marks for the word SMASH for two different entities that cover inter alia the same goods which creates a strong risk of confusion.

Consequently, as part of their joint submission. the parties should have provided a detailed explanation why TM 274301 in class 21 should be registerable together with TM 240598 in class 18. This wasn’t done, and the parties have provided no explanation as to how to avoid confusion. The request for coexistence is refused. The parties have until 1 June 2017 to inform whether they wish to conduct a cancellation proceeding.

Smash ruling, Ms Shoshani Caspi, 26 April 2017.

Comment

The ruling is solid and both parties were represented. The parties are interested in compromising. The Patent and Trademark Office have to consider the public interest and to prevent confusion, but nevertheless one wonders why the arbitrator did not simply request that the parties relate to a list of issues that their agreement does not address, rather than to refuse the request.

 


Can a 3D perfume Bottle be Registered as a Trademark?

April 24, 2017

christiandorChristian 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:

  1. The mark serves as a trademark in practice
  2. The mark does not have any real aesthetic or functional purpose
  3. 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:

  1. The perfume associated with the requested mark was a flagship product
  2. The perfume was sold under the mark continuously since 1999 and was sold in 130 countries
  3. 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 toffiffeemarks 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.

croccrocFor example, the 212302 and 212303 Crocs Inc decision of January 2013, the 228232 and 228233 Seven Towns SA decision cube-in-handof 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 [2004] ECR I‑1725, paragraph 53, and Case T‑399/02 Eurocermex v OHIM (Shape of a beer bottle) [2004] ECR II‑1391, paragraph 24, upheld on appeal in Case C‑286/04 P Eurocermex v OHIM [2005] 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. 

COMMENT

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.