2008 06 27 Food & Drinks Seminar


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  • DISTINCTIVE = capable of distinguishing the goods of one undertaking from those of other undertakings.
  • Grounds of refusal must be interpreted in the light of the public interest underlying each of them: see Windsurfing Chiemsee, paragraphs 25-27 «  to prevent trade mark protection from granting its proprietor a monopoly on technical solutions or functional characteristics of a product which a user is likely to seek in the products of competitors  » ECJ, Philips/Remington, paragraphs 77-78
  • See Philips par. 75 et Linde par. 44 PATENT TGI Paris 23 May 2007, Viennetta Decision The shape of Viennetta ice cream has a technical function since it directly derives from the patented process
  • Signs which exclusively consist of the shape of the product means that the essential functional features of that shape are attributable only to the technical result Interpretation and application of the concept « functional features »? Suggestion: all features and characteristics performing a technical function and that user is likely to seek in products of competitors « essential »: assessment on a case-by-case basis, question of facts
  • « Even admitting that a cereal biscuit with right angled corners is more prone to burning during baking process than cereal with rounded corners or is less fragile, these simply seem to correspond to some practical advantage but not technical reasons as such  » Signs where a technical result is obtained through the shape Technical nature of the result Nebulous Not defined by the patentable character Shape must be crucial to achieve the result Narrow interpretation of the exception Only covers shape whose modification would change the technical result itself and not those which are merely practical Illustration see Weetabix and Toblerone cases
  • “  the board concurs with the contested decision that the Lego brick is wholly functional since there is nothing arbitrary nor ornamental present in it; consequently the board, with regard to the proprietor’s Lego brick, can apply the following words of the Remington/Philips judgment, namely that the essential functional characteristics of the shape are attributable solely to the technical result  »
  • 2008 06 27 Food & Drinks Seminar

    1. 1. Scope of protection and limitations in packaging design freedom 27 June 2008 Wouter Pors, Partner, Den Hague Jean-Christophe Troussel, Partner, Brussels
    2. 2. Content <ul><li>Introduction: functions of packaging and challenges </li></ul><ul><li>Protection by designs vs. technical features </li></ul><ul><li>Protection by trade marks vs. technical features </li></ul><ul><li>Conclusions </li></ul>
    3. 3. Introduction: functions of packaging (1) <ul><li>Packaging performs many essential functions </li></ul><ul><li>Packaging e nsures that products are moved from source or production to destination in the best possible condition, and it does this in three ways </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Protection </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Containment </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Preservation </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Source: WRAP, Guide to Evolving Packaging Design </li></ul>
    4. 4. Introduction: functions of packaging (2) <ul><li>Packaging is also a powerful marketing tool </li></ul><ul><ul><li>provides useful information </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>promotes the products </li></ul></ul><ul><li>On the down side, packaging is part of the concern about the environmental impact of modern life style </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Developement of environnement friendly packaging </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>Need to optimise packaging to improve customer perception and (technical) performance and to reduce environmental impact
    5. 5. The dilemma: R&D + marketing versus legal <ul><li>Packaging may need to meet technical requirements </li></ul><ul><li>Marketing may want to present innovative packaging, having “gadget” appeal </li></ul><ul><li>This may prevent both design right and trade mark protection </li></ul><ul><li>Marketing will want to make the design of a new product/packaging as attractive in itself as possible </li></ul><ul><li>Advertising may focus on appeal as well as on source </li></ul><ul><li>This may prevent trade mark protection </li></ul>
    6. 6. Design and technical features <ul><li>Article 8 section 1 Design Right Regulation </li></ul><ul><li>Article 7 section 1 Design Right Regulation </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A Community design shall not subsist in features of appearance of a product which are solely dictated by its technical function. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Reason: you should patent (expensive, complicated) </li></ul>
    7. 7. Food packaging: Twin-cup <ul><li>President The Hague 12-10-2005, SFA Packaging v. The Filet Company </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Only some elements are actually protected </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Most elements are either not new or determined by technical requirements: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Division of food components </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Relative size of food components </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Stacking of empty containers </li></ul></ul></ul>
    8. 8. Basic approach: Philishave <ul><li>European Court of Justice 18-06-2002, Philips v. Remington (trade mark case) </li></ul>Mouse Hé Man Philishave 3 Philips Remington 1947 1962 1966 2002 2002
    9. 9. Philips v. Remington <ul><li>Court of Justice </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Trade mark law should not limit the freedom of choice of competitors in regard to the technical solution they wish to adopt in order to incorporate a function </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>This applies even if that technical result can be achieved by other shapes, since the text does not indicate otherwise and this prevents individuals from obtaining perpetuate exclusive rights relating to technical solutions </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Trade marks are perpetual, design rights are temporary </li></ul><ul><li>Court of Appeal Den Bosch 4-11-2003, BIE 2004/44, Synergis v. Geha </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Court follows Philips v. Remington for design rights </li></ul></ul>
    10. 10. Some escapes? <ul><li>District Court The Hague 19-04-2006, BIE 2007/41, Wijbenga v. Eisenkolb </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Limited scope of protection for design right </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>But not invalidated! </li></ul></ul><ul><li>District Court The Hague 15-02-2006, BIE 2006/69, Atag v. Boretti </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Even if some aspects of design are determined by technical requirements, there still are enough design options to award copyright protection </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Probably no design right protection </li></ul></ul>
    11. 11. Trade mark protection of packaging shapes <ul><li>Article 2 of Trade Mark Directive 89/104/EEC </li></ul><ul><li>Article 4 of the Community Trademark Regulation (CTMR) </li></ul><ul><li>Shape of goods can be registered as trade marks </li></ul><ul><li>Shape of packaging can be registered as trade marks </li></ul><ul><li>Conditions: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>If capable of being represented graphically </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>If distinctive </li></ul></ul>
    12. 12. Exceptions: some shapes are excluded <ul><li>Article 3.1(e) of the Directive and Article 7.1(iii) CTMR </li></ul><ul><li>Signs which consist exclusively of: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>the shape which results from the nature of the goods themselves </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>the shape of goods which is necessary to obtain a technical result , </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>the shape which gives substantial value to the goods </li></ul></ul>
    13. 13. Exclusion of technical shapes - What is excluded? <ul><li>Philips/Remington ⌗ 79 and 84 </li></ul><ul><li>Shapes </li></ul><ul><ul><li>whose essential characteristics perform a technical function </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>when these essential characteristics are attributable only to the technical result </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Basic benchmark </li></ul><ul><ul><li>If the shape is registered as a trade mark, are competitors limited in their freedom to chose the technical solution they wish to adopt in order to achieve a function? </li></ul></ul>
    14. 14. Why are technical shapes excluded? Rationale <ul><li>Public interest in the free use of the specific shape of the product in question (Philips, # 74-76) </li></ul><ul><li>Interface with patent law (take vs. give and take) </li></ul><ul><li>Trade marks cannot serve to grant monopoly (unlimited in time) on technical solutions or functional characteristics of a product which a user is likely to seek in the products of competitors </li></ul>
    15. 15. Does that exclusion apply to packaging? <ul><li>Article 3.1(e) only excludes «shape of goods», not shape of packaging </li></ul><ul><li>ECJ, Henkel decision, 12 February 2004 </li></ul><ul><li>Certain goods have no shape without packaging </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Examples: powder, liquid, rice, flour, yogurt, ready-meal </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Packaging chosen imposes its shape on these goods </li></ul></ul><ul><li>In this case, the packaging is assimilated to the shape of the product when assessing the grounds of refusal set out in Article 3(1)(e) of the Directive </li></ul><ul><li>Quid for pre-packaged goods that have an intrinsic shape? See Toblerone case (below). </li></ul>
    16. 16. Exclusion of technical shapes: further guidance <ul><li>Exclusion of technical shapes is a “preliminary obstacle” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Functionality and distinctiveness are separate issues </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>In practice, issues are blurred (functionalities as signs of non-distinctiveness - shape held distinctive and, by the way, non-functional) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>No “inburgering” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>proof of acquired distinctiveness is no remedy (cfr Lego case) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Multiplicity of shapes is no safe-harbour </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The mere existence of other possible shapes (which allow the same technical result) does not (necessarily) render the mark non-functional </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The addition of minor arbitrary features is no escape (Lego) </li></ul><ul><li>The fact that the shape is disclosed in a patent (Lego) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>is never unimportant </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>can be decisive as such («preferred form») </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>but is not necessarily decisive </li></ul></ul>
    17. 17. Illustrations <ul><li>Tribunal of Hertogenbosch 18 April 2007, Rayovac/Philips </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Application of «essential functional feature» </li></ul></ul><ul><li>French Supreme Court, 30 May 2007, Philips/Rayovac </li></ul>
    18. 18. Illustrations <ul><li>OHIM, Weetabix case (Cancellation Division, 22 December 2006) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Exclusion to be construed narrowly: all functional shapes are not excluded - only shapes that are «crucial» for the technical result </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Benchmark: if shape is modified, is technical result affected? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>«Practical advantages» do not necessarily qualify as «technical results» </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mark (shape of product) held valid </li></ul></ul>
    19. 19. Illustrations <ul><li>Toblerone/Harrods Gold Bar (Brussels Court of Appeal, 2 June 2004) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Both signs were accepted as 3D trade marks: no technical result performed by the shape </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Product with intrinsic shape: no assimilation of the packaging with the shape of the product </li></ul></ul>
    20. 20. Illustrations <ul><li>OHIM, Lego decision </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Grand Board of appeal,10 July 2006 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lego brick is wholly functional : there is nothing arbitrary nor ornamental present in it (studs, secondary projections in the underside) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The essential functional characteristics of the shape are attributable solely to the technical result </li></ul></ul>
    21. 21. Trade mark: other shape mark limitations <ul><li>District Court The Hague 08-05-2002, IER 2002/39, Mars v. Kraft </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Shape marks have acquired distinctiveness through extensive use </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Court of Appeal The Hague 03-01-2008, Mars v. Kraft </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Triangle shape is common for packaging </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Bar shape is valid due to extensive use </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Triangle shape is not valid, no proven extensive use </li></ul></ul>
    22. 22. Shape which gives substantial value to the goods <ul><li>ECJ 20-9-2007, C-371/06, Benetton v. G-Star </li></ul><ul><li>Dutch Supreme Court 08-09-2006, NJ 2006/492 </li></ul><ul><li>Dutch Supreme Court 13-10-2006, NJ 2006/561 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>G-Star argued: public buys Elwood jeans partly because they are pretty, but also because they recognize the source. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>So: shape (also) gives substantial value to the goods </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>ECJ: that cannot constitute a trade mark even if it acquired attractiveness as a result of its recognition as a distinctive sign following advertising campaigns presenting the specific characteristics of the product in question. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Beware how you market your shape mark! </li></ul></ul>
    23. 23. <ul><li>There’s much more to say about this </li></ul><ul><li>Legal development has not stopped yet </li></ul><ul><li>So plan for strategy prior to market introduction and monitor execution of that strategy </li></ul>
    24. 24. <ul><li>Thank you for your attention </li></ul><ul><li>If any questions: </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul>