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Clash over an eagle

May 2019. If you’re going to use your trademark for products or services that lie outside your core activity, you’ll need to be careful, as someone else may own older rights to a similar trademark in that specific category. American Airlines (AA), for example, recently clashed with French clothing company Aigle when it applied to extend its new logo to clothing in the UK.

Left: the American Airlines logo, and right: that of French clothing company Aigle

Confusing

According to the French plaintiff, if AA were to use its new logo for clothing, this would give rise to confusion since both logos suggested an eagle flying left to right.

Not an eagle…

However, the UK trademark office UKIPO saw things differently. It concluded that while the designer of the AA logo may have had a bird (eagle) in mind, this shouldn’t be given too much weight since the average clothes-buying consumer wouldn’t immediately see it as a bird/eagle given that the details of the shape were too imprecise. Moreover, the visual similarity of the two trademarks was minimal and they had a different ‘look’ and ‘feel’. UKIPO therefore rejected the opposition, with the result that American Airlines can go ahead and feature its logo on clothing.

The application of AA was done in black and white, which makes it even closer to the Aigle logo

… or is it?

In our view, this is a decision that could easily go the other way on appeal. After all, we can’t really see how the AA logo could be regarded as anything other than an eagle flying left to right. What else could it be? And if it’s an eagle, that takes you straight back to the Aigle logo.

Bas Kist