Although unable to find a precedent in Hungarian case law, the Metropolitan Tribunal was still able to arrive at a convincing decision in a recent case involving a licensee's use of a mark which had been registered before the plaintiff's similar mark. Surprisingly, the plaintiff not only continued the litigation after recognising that the defendant was a licensee of the proprietor of a prior mark, but also filed an appeal.
Brand owners often distort descriptive terms or generic names in order to register them as trademarks. Whether they succeed depends on the level of difference between the two terms. A recent Metropolitan Tribunal opinion in this regard was supported by the EU General Court's judgment in Doublemint, according to which a word's descriptive character must be material in respect of the relevant goods and enable the public to immediately recognise the characteristics of such goods.
Case law clearly demonstrates that opponents in opposition and cancellation procedures must often prove the genuine use of their mark. However, whether online publicity constitutes acceptable proof of use has been the subject of debate. In a recent case, the Metropolitan Tribunal expressly recognised the role of the Internet in commerce and imposed a higher standard of use – namely, evidence of realised sales – as proof of genuine use.
With the constant development and advancement of digital technologies, the use of paper-based documents is gradually decreasing in all areas of life. This trend has inevitably affected the employment sector, as both employers and employees have an increasing need to reduce the volume of paper-based documents used in employment relationships. At the same time, the use of electronic documents has raised several practical questions.
The Hungarian Intellectual Property Office and the Metropolitan Tribunal recently dismissed an opposition of an applied-for mark on the basis that there was no likelihood of confusion. However, the appeals court disagreed, holding, among other things, that an assessment of a likelihood of confusion is more sensitive for conflicting pharmaceutical marks than for marks designating other goods. Although the court's decision is well grounded in Hungarian case law, it has been disputed for a number of reasons.
The owner of the EU trademark ARIEL, registered in Class 3, recently requested the cancellation of the later mark ARILUX, registered for goods in the same class. The Hungarian Intellectual Property Office granted the request and cancelled the ARILUX mark. It found that, as the two word marks had identical beginnings and both consisted of three syllables, there was a strong similarity between them. The Metropolitan Court of Appeal upheld the ruling.
The Hungarian Intellectual Property Office recently rejected an application to register a device mark featuring the term 'DRONEHUNGARY', holding that the mark's wording was descriptive. However, on review, the Metropolitan Tribunal held that a word composition is descriptive only if it is grammatically correct. This is not the first time that the HIPO has been more rigorous than the tribunal in assessing an application, especially with regard to a mark's descriptiveness.
A recent Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA) decision concerning Vodafone demonstrates that a reasonable cooperative approach may significantly affect the level of fine imposed on an undertaking, as the HCA reduced the fine imposed on Vodafone by more than 50% based solely on its cooperative measures. Although this case is unique, it signals that compliance and cooperation efforts which exceed the necessary legal requirements do not go unnoticed.
The Supreme Court recently issued a reasoned opinion on certain legal and procedural aspects of employment-related suits involving equal treatment claims. The reasoned opinion addresses, among other things, the interpretation of the burden of proof in such suits, the equal pay principle, the concept of discrimination based on other grounds and the way of hearing and deciding anti-discrimination claims in suits initiated on the grounds of unlawful dismissal.
Facebook recently succeeded in opposing an application to register the mark MBOOK before the Hungarian Intellectual Property Office (HIPO), the Metropolitan Tribunal and the Metropolitan Court of Appeal. Although the result of the opposition is unsurprising, the different reasoning of the HIPO and the tribunal, which resulted in the same decision, is notable. Regardless of how the HIPO and the tribunal arrived at their decisions, this case is a good example of the protection afforded to reputed marks.
As it is usually difficult to prove the existence of bad faith in respect of trademarks, case law is often reluctant to apply this prohibition. This was the case with a recent Metropolitan Tribunal case. Fortunately, the Metropolitan Court of Appeal was more flexible in this respect and interpreted the facts concerning bad faith alongside another issue, thus leading to different interpretations of the concept of due cause by the tribunal and the court.
The owner of the international trademark ELEVEN PARIS filed for an extension of protection in Hungary, which the Hungarian Intellectual Property Office (HIPO) refused on the basis that the inclusion of the geographical name Paris could be misleading. The Metropolitan Tribunal annulled the HIPO's decision and ordered it to re-examine the application. The tribunal's obiter dicta on globalisation and its consequences for the use of geographical names in trademarks are notable.
A recent Metropolitan Court of Appeal case demonstrates that the determination of likelihood of confusion is often a sensitive issue. This case is notable, as the Hungarian Intellectual Property (HIPO) and the Metropolitan Tribunal came to different conclusions after examining the same facts. Although the HIPO rejected the opposition – holding that the visual and phonetic similarities between the marks in question were weak – the tribunal (and subsequently the court) disagreed.
The Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA) was recently given significant new investigative powers under the framework of its merger control duties. Should parties decide not to submit a voluntary filing when meeting the voluntary notification threshold, the HCA can initiate an investigation on its own accord and undertake a fully fledged merger control proceeding. The HCA recently announced that it has commenced its first such ex officio merger control investigation.
Employers are often frustrated by employees' incapacity to work for health reasons, but they must act with care when addressing such situations. In an attempt to protect employee interests, legal regulations provide certain restrictions on what employers can do if an employee is unable to work for health reasons. A recent Supreme Court decision has further clarified some of these restrictions.
A number of amendments to the Law on Utility Models will take effect in January 2018. The most substantial amendments are the official confirmation of simultaneous patent and utility model protection and the introduction of an option to request an opinion from the Hungarian Intellectual Property Office on novelty and inventive step. These opinions can be used in infringement cases to prevent proceedings from being suspended when a utility model's novelty or inventive step has been called into question.
Organisations with legal entities and employees in several EU member states often try to centralise their human resources (HR) functions to some extent, which occasionally requires them to share employee and HR data within their group. Although existing Hungarian law provides a stable legal environment with clear rules for employers as data processors, there is a general feeling of uncertainty around this topic, which is partly due to the upcoming entry into force of the EU General Data Protection Regulation.
In a recent case involving the EU mark THE BODYSHOP, the Hungarian Intellectual Property Office considered all of the arguments for opposition – namely, the likelihood of confusion and the prior mark's reputation. However, on review, the Metropolitan Tribunal found this to be superfluous, explaining that if a likelihood of confusion exists, reference to reputation is unnecessary.
The Hungarian Intellectual Property Office (HIPO) recently approved a request for the cancellation of a three-dimensional mark on the grounds of lack of distinctiveness and unlawfulness. While the Metropolitan Tribunal confirmed the lack of distinctiveness and rejected the request for review, it disagreed with the HIPO with respect to the mark's unlawfulness on the basis of the Competition Act. The case is notable, as the tribunal seldom deals so extensively with competition law in a trademark case.
Following a Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA) decision that its rebate system violated the Trade Act, retail chain Spar went all the way to the Supreme Court. All judicial forums upheld the HCA's decision and the illegality of such rebates seemed to be settled. However, the Budapest Metropolitan Court recently overturned another HCA decision, which was somewhat surprising considering that the Supreme Court had already upheld the HCA's decision in the relatively similar Spar.