When it comes to brand identity, nothing is more important than your brand’s logo.
Famous logos can not only signify your brand’s status, but they can become cultural touchstones. They often symbolise luxury, style, and exclusivity to millions of people worldwide.
Think of the marketing power that the brand logos of organisations such as Apple, Coca-Cola, Hermes, Rolex, – the list can be endless.
Because of their strong marketing power, luxury companies are extremely defensive when it comes to their branding. After all, if anyone could simply use a design icon on its products, luxury companies wouldn’t be able to charge exorbitant prices for their otherwise simple wares.
In 2017, the Chinese technology firm Huawei applied for EU trademark protection for a logo (see the left logo above) it would use for computer hardware.
French firm Chanel opposed Huawei’s registration arguing that the two vertical intertwining semi-circles were too similar to its protected logo, which it uses to sell make-up, perfumes, clothing, and fashion accessories.
Chanel pointed to its registration for a logo that consists of interlocking C’s for use on goods in Class 9 (namely, “cameras, sunglasses, glasses; earphones and headphones; computer hardware”), which is the same class that Huawei is looking to register its logo, and argued that Huawei’s mark is confusingly similar.
Beyond that, Chanel also pointed to the registration that it has maintained in France since the mid-1980s, for the same double “C” logo – albeit, this time with the circle – for use “in Classes 3, 14, 18 and 25,” including “perfumes, cosmetics, costume jewellery, leather goods, [and] clothes.’”
With that longstanding registration in mind, Chanel argued that if the EUIPO allows for the registration of Huawei’s mark, it would enable the Chinese giant to inappropriately take advantage of the fame of Chanel’s mark.
The EU Intellectual Property Office however dismissed Chanel’s objection, saying there was no similarity and the public was not likely to be confused by the two.
Chanel then challenged the EUIPO’s ruling at the General Court.
In the latest round, the General Court held in its April 21 decision that the marks at issue do, in fact, “share certain characteristics, namely a black circle, two interlaced curves, which the circle surrounds, also black, intersecting in an inverted mirror image, and a central ellipse, resulting from the intersection of the curves.”
Despite such similarities, however, the court listed a number of reasons why “the marks at issue are visually different” – from “the more rounded shape of the curves” to the “greater thickness of the line of those curves in Chanel’s mark as compared with the line of the curves in Huawei’s mark.”
The judge essentially pointed out that, the marks must be compared as applied for and registered, without altering their orientation.
The General Court held that “the Board of Appeal was correct in finding that the marks were dissimilar overall and that, accordingly, the opposition had to be rejected,” noting that “in so far as the signs at issue are not similar, the other relevant factors for the global assessment of the likelihood of confusion cannot under any circumstances offset and make up for that dissimilarity and therefore there is no need to examine them.”
Therefore, the court dismissed Chanel’s Article 8(1)(b) of Regulation No 207/2009 and Article 8(5) of Regulation No 207/2009 arguments and allowed for Huawei’s mark to proceed in the registration process with the EUIPO.
Whether Chanel will appeal the above decision, remains to be seen.
The case is Chanel v EUIPO – Huawei Technologies, T-44/20.