The individual assessment of each sign must be made in the light of the particular circumstances of the case and cannot be regarded as being subject to general presumptions

C-182/16 P

Meica v EUIPO

Trade marks: Scope of protection

26 Jul 2017

The matter at hand

The Italian company Fratelli Beretta filed an application for registration as an EU trade mark of a figurative sign containing the word elements 'STICK MiniMINI Fratelli Beretta' for meat, poultry and game in class 29 and services for providing food and drink in class 43. The German company Meica opposed the registration of this mark based on its earlier EU word mark Mini Wini covering, inter alia, meat, poultry and game in class 29.

The General Court held there was no likelihood of confusion between the marks and confirmed the Board of Appeal’s decision in this respect. Meica then appealed the General Court’s decision to the ECJ

The judgment of the ECJ

The ECJ dismisses Meica’s argument that a likelihood of confusion automatically arises where there is a combination of the following factors: average distinctiveness of the earlier trade mark, an average level of attention on the part of the relevant public, identity of the goods concerned and a low degree of similarity between the signs at issue. “[T]he occurrence in combination of [these] factors (…) –– which are present to a certain level and degree –– in no way entails a presumption that there is a likelihood of confusion” (paragraph 25.

Further, Meica argued that the General Court failed to recognise that the contested mark consists of the juxtaposition of the name 'Fratelli Beretta' and the element 'MiniMINI' and that the latter element has an independent distinctive role within the contested mark. Instead, the General Court found that the contested sign is composed not of a juxtaposition of, on the one hand, the name of the company (Fratelli Beretta) and, on the other, the registered mark (MINI WINI), but rather of figurative elements and a set of textual elements of which the earlier mark – which is not even used in the same way – is only one element. The ECJ rejects Meica's arguments, considering “that it is necessary to ascertain, in each individual case, the overall impression made on the target public by the sign for which registration is sought, by means of, inter alia, an analysis of the components of a sign and of their relative weight in the perception of the target public, and then, in the light of that overall impression and all factors relevant to the circumstances of the case, to assess the likelihood of confusion” (paragraph 58). Therefore, “the individual assessment of each sign, as required by the settled case-law of the Court of Justice, must be made in the light of the particular circumstances of the case and thus cannot be regarded as being subject to general presumptions” (paragraph 59).

Meica also raised other, less noteworthy points in appeal, which the ECJ rejects, either because they are unfounded or because they challenge factual assessments which cannot be reviewed on appeal.

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