A recent judgment from the General Court to annul a decision of the EUIPO to invalidate an EUTM registration for the word DEVIN - the name of a town in Bulgaria - serves as a useful reminder that geographical place names are inherently registrable as trade marks. This is as long as:
a. the place name is not currently associated in the minds of the public with the goods and/or services applied for, e.g. as the place of production of the goods or the place where the services are rendered; and
b. it is reasonable to assume that the place name is not liable to be used by the public as an indication of the geographical origin of the goods and/or services applied for in the future.
In its decision, the EUIPO held that DEVIN was descriptive of the geographical origin of the goods covered by the registration, namely a range of non-alcoholic drinks and, on that basis, considered the registration to be invalid.
However, in annulling the EUIPO's decision, the General Court held that the "EUIPO has not established the existence of a sufficient degree of recognition of the town of Devin by the average EU consumer... The proportion of EU consumers who know the town of Devin must be considered to be very small".
To my mind, a very clear and sensible decision!
Reinstating trademark protection for mineral water produced in Devin, Bulgaria, the European General Court found Thursday that any association tourists might have with the tiny spa town is not enough to cause confusion. “While it must be held that a proportion of European Union consumers know the town of Devin, that proportion must, in any event, be considered to be very small,” the ruling states.