In a late 2014 decision the Federal Administrative Court provided further guidance on how the design of a trademark can be altered without losing the rights attached to it. The decision shows that it may be advisable not to change the letter type or font of the mark in a significant way if the mark was registered in a certain typeface.
Clothing company Peek & Cloppenburg initiated opposition proceedings against registration of the word mark PD&C in Class 25 on the basis of its own prior international word and figurative mark P&C. The defendant claimed non-use of the prior mark. Peek & Cloppenburg in turn submitted evidence to prove use of its trademark. However, the defendant claimed that the opposing trademark had not been used in a manner that preserved the rights attached to it.
Under Article 12(1) of the Trademark Act, in order to preserve the rights attached to a trademark, the rights holder must have used the mark during the five years prior to a non-use claim. As stated in Article 11(2) of the act, use in a form that does not differ significantly from the registered form also constitutes trademark use and therefore preserves trademark rights.
Evidence for the use of a trademark may take the form of documents (eg, invoices and delivery notes) and inspection objects (eg, sample labels, packaging, catalogues and brochures). All documents must refer to the relevant time period before the non-use opposition. In the case at hand, much of the submitted evidence showed Peek and Cloppenburg's mark in a way that differed from the registration:
The court's decision discussed the way in which a trademark can be used without losing the rights attached to it. The basis for use must be the original registration. Deviations from the registration's specification (eg, by graphical redesign of the mark or the addition of further elements) can be made while preserving the mark, provided that such deviations are not significant. The court held that a deviation is insignificant if it concerns some of...