Trademarks, Brands, Patents, Designs, Made in Italy, Copyrights, Competition Law, Contracts and Enforcement

10 ottobre 2008

Seat trademark...

Stefano Sandri

Luxembourg is a very small town and possibly the judges neither need a car to go to the court nor pay too much attention to the cars’ logos. Otherwise how can you explain the puzzling statement one reads in T-363/06, 9 September 2008, Honda v SEAT, that ,42, “the device element ‘S’ does not have any semantic content of its own” ? The device element we are talking about is represented by the famous "S" logo.

According to the decision, indeed, 35, “the word component ‘seat’ (which stand for : Sociedad Española de Automóviles de Turismo) is the dominant element of the trade mark and that the device element would be perceived as a decorative element or as the initial of ‘seat’. Since the acronym SEAT is clearly descriptive and the device merely ornamental the court shows to consider the mark of the Spanish firm null and void for lacking any distinctive power. “Although the device element as such is undoubtedly recognisable in itself – goes on the judgement - it is also inseparably connected with the word element ‘seat’, which is highly distinctive in Spain because of the reputation it enjoys. Therefore, the earlier trade mark, assessed as a whole, risks being identified through the word component ‘seat’, whereas the device element will be perceived as a decorative element or the initial of ‘seat’ (32). More precisely, “the ‘S’ device element is slightly stylised, but does not appear to be original or very elaborate” (31). In other words the logo SEAT survives thanks only to the reputation of the company name.

I don’t know how Volkswagen or Fiat should react to these amazing assertions.

The point is that, for one reason or another, cars’ logos have been converted in true icons of the modern society , are belonging to our current way of life and subject to huge amount of investment in publicity. It is hard to imagine that the attention of the relevant people can be diverged by other element, unless to be unrealistic.

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