The Hungarian Intellectual Property Office (HIPO) and the Metropolitan Tribunal recently rejected a word mark application based on European Court of Justice (ECJ) case law. While it seems likely that the HIPO and the Metropolitan Tribunal would have come to the same conclusion without referring to ECJ case law, the guidance was useful for the development of a unified EU doctrine and case law.
The Hungarian Intellectual Property Office (HIPO) recently rejected a trademark opposition in respect of the opponent's prior use and registered the disputed mark. However, as the HIPO failed to consider the opponent's arguments concerning copyright infringement, the Metropolitan Tribunal annulled the decision and ordered a new procedure. In the new procedure, the HIPO must examine whether the opponent sufficiently proved the alleged copyright infringement.
The Hungarian Intellectual Property Office (HIPO) recently issued ex officio a provisional refusal to register the international device mark SPIRIT in Hungary, holding that it was misleading because the word 'spirit' means alcohol, whereas the goods in Class 32 include mineral water, beer and soft drinks, which are not hard liquors. The Metropolitan Tribunal subsequently confirmed the HIPO's conclusion.
Hungarian case law frequently discusses the protectability of foreign word combinations. In a recent case, the authorities found that the international mark DRIVE PILOT did not meet the protection requirements. The decisions reflected established case law on the right to refuse protection for an international word mark in Hungary where the words are understood by the average Hungarian consumer and are descriptive.
In a recent trademark opposition case, Aldi – one of the biggest supermarket chains in Hungary – was unable to prove use of its mark in Hungary because it filed evidence of use only in Spain and the United Kingdom. Further, the evidence that Aldi did file was insufficient. As neither the Hungarian Intellectual Property Office nor the Metropolitan Tribunal can undertake an investigation ex officio, neither entity explicitly examined Aldi's reputation in Hungary, despite the fact that they were likely well aware of it.
A recent Metropolitan Tribunal ruling serves as a useful reminder that decisions on likelihood of confusion always contain subjective elements. Quoting European Court of Justice case law, the tribunal appreciated the degree of distinctiveness and danger of confusion in the case at hand, but not the elements of the two opposed marks.
Hungarian case law has prohibited acting in bad faith for centuries – particularly since the introduction of the Civil Code 1958 and the Trademark Act 1979. As a result, there are few examples of bad-faith trademark cases. A recent case involving the JAZZY PUB and JAZZY marks aligns Hungarian case law with that of the European Court of Justice, which holds that a finding of bad faith can be made if an applicant was aware of a prior mark when it filed its application.
There have been relatively few 'free-riding' trademark cases in Hungary since the country's laws were harmonised with EU law in 1997. However, in a case involving the unfair use of the LOUIS VUITTON mark, the courts' decisions correspond to, and provide a helpful reminder of, the European Court of Justice's test for determining whether a party has taken unfair advantage of a mark's reputation.
The Hungarian Intellectual Property Office recently rejected a trademark application on the grounds of bad faith, finding that the applicant had attempted to register the mark so that he could charge a licence fee when a swimming arena with the same name commenced operations. As bad-faith decisions are rare in trademark cases, this decision would also be relevant in piracy cases.
Likelihood of confusion is a frequent argument in opposition or annulment proceedings and the case law in this respect is rich. This well-established case law may have motivated the opponent in a recent case to raise the argument of reputation. However, as demonstrated by this case, proving reputation with marketing and sales figures is difficult. Further, evidence of publicity is seldom sufficient.
The Hungarian Intellectual Property Office recently granted the cancellation of the mark MINIME on the basis that the term 'mini me' had been widely used with regard to 3D printing services before the mark's filing date. Although the owner of the mark argued that the term had been used by others for only a short time before the mark's filing date, in special circumstances, even a relatively short period of use of a term by third parties can be sufficient for the term to become known by the relevant public.
The Hungarian Intellectual Property Office (HIPO) recently refused to register a mark on the basis that the opponent had proved its prior mark's reputation in a substantial part of the European Union. The applicant requested a review by the Metropolitan Tribunal, contesting the significance of the HIPO's decision for Hungary if reputation could be proved only in other EU member states. As the tribunal had doubts in this regard, it referred the case to the European Court of Justice for the first time.
Decathlon – one of the biggest sportswear companies in Europe – has a defensive trademark policy under which its reputed EU trademark is protected for all goods and services in Classes 1 to 42, including sporting activities, as well as services in Classes 41 and 42. However, the applicant in a recent case was clever enough to limit the scope of its application to register the coloured mark DUNATHLON VEDD BE A KANYART to special services, thereby limiting the authorities' examination of a potential conflict.
An applicant filed to register the combination word mark R.E.D. RÓNA ENERGY DRINK, which was opposed by the owner of the RED BULL mark. The applicant argued that there was no likelihood of confusion, as the term 'Róna' (ie, plain) was the distinctive element of the applied-for mark. However, the Metropolitan Tribunal disagreed, finding that the central element of the applied-for mark was the acronym 'R.E.D.'.
Colour combinations could be protected as trademarks under the previous Trademark Act 1969. However, single colours have only been protectable as trademarks since Hungary joined the European Union and harmonised its trademark law therewith. A recent Metropolitan Court of Appeal case concerning a colour mark for a shade of violet, which was used on chocolate packaging, is a notable example of the application of the rules on colour marks during the enforcement phase.
In a recent dispute between the inventor and marketer of a food supplement gel, the Hungarian Intellectual Property Office, the Metropolitan Tribunal and the Metropolitan Court of Appeal had to determine the true owner of the associated word and device marks. Using EU case law as a guide, they considered the market situation, including the knowledge of consumers, and applied the principle of registration and the rule of good faith.
In a recent trademark dispute between Facebook and the owner of the applied-for mark 'mbook – ablak a világra' (ie, 'window to the world'), the Hungarian Intellectual Property Office, the Metropolitan Tribunal and the Metropolitan Court of Appeal came to the same decision on the merits and rejected the applied-for mark, albeit for different reasons. This result is logical, as the Facebook mark is one of the most well known with regard to communication services.
The Office of Economic Competition recently fined the owner of the REXONA mark HUF30 million following an investigation into an ad which compared Rexona Invisible and NIVEA Invisible antiperspirant. The case demonstrates the important role that trademarks play in comparative advertising, as the decision discussed the REXONA and NIVEA marks which appeared in the TV ads and the fine – which is arguably high – was the result of the volume of products sold under the REXONA mark.
In a recent case, the Hungarian Intellectual Property Office (HIPO) held that the services covered by two conflicting marks were not similar and granted the applied-for mark protection in Class 35. In this regard, the HIPO took a traditional approach, bearing in mind the marks' classification and examining only the services in Class 35, which were different. However, on review, the Metropolitan Tribunal took a different approach.
The Hungarian Intellectual Property Office recently refused to grant the word mark PAYSEND protection, holding that it is descriptive. However, the Metropolitan Tribunal disagreed, holding that the mark is a grammatically incorrect variation which does not in itself enable consumers to recognise the service which it designates. Rather, the mark comprises an invented word, which makes it distinctive.