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Mastercard loses trademarks

September 2019. MasterCard suffered a painful defeat when the European Trademark Office EUIPO recently declared two of its key trademark registrations invalid.

Mastercard’s European trademark registrations, nos. 2988533 and 9835869, declared invalid

Extending protection

Mastercard had hoped that these trademarks, which it registered in black and white throughout Europe in 2012, would extend the protection of its famous yellow and red circles logo to the use of any two interlocking circles, regardless of what colour they were.

The logo of Polish company Cinkciarz

Invalidation procedure

Mastercard’s actions apparently upset Polish credit card issuer Cinkciarz. Cinkciarz’ logo also features two overlapping circles and the company clearly feared it would fall foul of Mastercard’s extended protection. So Cinkciarz filed an opposition with EUIPO to have the two black-and-white trademarks declared invalid. The Polish company claimed that Mastercard should never have been allowed to register them since they were too banal and simple and insufficiently distinctive.

Acquired distinctiveness

Mastercard protested that its trademarks were world-famous and their widespread recognisability had given them acquired distinctiveness. It pointed out that the circles had been used since 1969 and appeared on some 2.3 billion credit cards worldwide.

A huge amount of material with plenty of logos – only not the relevant ones

Plenty of proof, none of it relevant

To convince EUIPO, Mastercard handed over a huge volume of documentary evidence to demonstrate the acquired distinctiveness of its black-and-white logos. Ultimately to no avail. While the documents included an enormous number of logos, none of them were the black-and-white variants at issue, said EUIPO, which couldn’t hide its irritation over the staggering amount of irrelevant material it had been confronted with. Result: Mastercard lost two key trademarks which would have given its red and yellow logo extensive protection.

Mystifying

It’s mystifying how a global concern like Mastercard could yet again throw a veritable mountain of irrelevant evidence EUIPO’s way. A stunt like that simply can’t do your case any good. What’s more, it’s not the first time the company has done it. The same thing happened earlier this year in Mastercard’s (similarly unsuccessful) attempt to uphold its Cirrus logo. There too, the credit card company was implicitly ticked off by EUIPO.

Bas Kist