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July 2020. Sometimes you can strongly disagree with a ruling. Such as that of the European trademark office EUIPO on 2 July. The owner of the logo webuyanycar.com stops the European registration of the logo Buyanycar.com. How can you claim trademark rights for a completely non-distinctive sentence?

webuyanycar

LOGO TRADEMARK REGISTRATION

The British company We Buy Any Car Ltd. decided to register its logo as a European trademark in 2010. In itself an excellent logo that is distinguished by 5 coloured cars in combination with some text in green and black. But what in this logo definitely is not distinctive are the words webuyanycar.com. After all, that’s nothing but an exact description of what this company does: they buy every car!

BUYANYCAR

Of course, the English didn’t like the fact that the Arabic company Sellanycar tried to register the BuyAnyCar.com logo as a European trademark as well. But hey, that’s the risk if you choose a purely descriptive name. Then you can register the distinctive logo, in which that name is included, as a trademark, but of course that doesn’t give you the monopoly for those non-distinctive words webuyanycar.com. The protection of such a trademark is limited to the design. After all, the language itself should not be monopolised.

STILL INFRINGEMENT

To our amazement, EUIPO sided with the English on 2 July. The trademark BuyAnyCar.com will not be registered because it infringes on the trademark webuyanycars.com. The reasoning behind this is hard (or impossible?) to understand. According to EUIPO, the words webuyanycar.com for the sale of cars are distinctive (albeit ‘below average’) and the visual elements (the design, the coloured cars) are not distinctive as a whole.

CLAIMING A NON-DISTINCTIVE WORD

Something feels wrong there. We would say it’s the other way around: that word component is, in relation to buying cars, not distinctive, while the design elements of those coloured cars are precisely the only reason why this brand has entered the register in the first place. In any case, if you follow this line or reasoning, it will be very easy to make trademark claims on entirely non-distinctive words. Or do you see that differently?

Bas Kist