Oppositie tegen K Water merk onterecht toegewezen
Gerecht EU 9 november 2022, IEF 21078, IEFbe 3571; ECLI:EU:T:2022:700 (L'Oréal tegen EUIPO) Op 10 juli 2019 heeft L'Oréal bij het EUIPO een aanvraag tot inschrijving van een beeldteken K Water als EU-merk ingediend. Arne-Patrik Heinze heeft op 15 augustus 2019 oppositie ingesteld tegen deze inschrijving. De oppositieafdeling heeft de oppositie afgewezen, maar deze beslissing is vernietigd door het EUIPO. Het EUIPO heeft namelijk geoordeeld dat er verwarringsgevaar is tussen de twee merken. L'Oréal is tegen deze beslissing in beroep gegaan. Het Gerecht oordeelt dat de visuele overeenstemming tussen de twee merken als gering moet worden beschouwd, evenals fonetische overeenstemming. Begripsmatig verschillen de merken van elkaar. Tot slot oordeelt het Gerecht dat er geen sprake is van verwarringsgevaar. De beslissing van het EUIPO wordt vernietigd.
40. Consequently, whilst it is true that the marks at issue resemble each other, inasmuch as they include a large letter ‘k’, they are nevertheless distinguishable, first, by the different graphics and stylisation of that letter and, second, by the visible presence of the word elements ‘k water’ only in the mark applied for, as well as by the different colours of their word elements. Accordingly, the visual similarity between those marks must be regarded as low. The fact that they also include a black, box-shaped background, which is purely decorative, does not alter that finding.
44. It must be held that the Board of Appeal underestimated the phonetic impact of the elements ‘k water’ of the mark applied for, in finding that a significant part of the relevant public would probably not pronounce them. As has been pointed out above, those elements are clearly visible, with the result that, as the applicant claims, the relevant public will pronounce the mark applied for either in three or in four syllables. That pronunciation has a very different sound and length from those resulting from the pronunciation of the earlier mark, consisting of a single letter ‘k’ in isolation.
45. Therefore, phonetically, the marks at issue cannot be considered to be similar only to a low degree.
50. In addition, it must be stated, as the applicant does, that the Board of Appeal again ignored the presence of the elements ‘k water’ in the mark applied for. Indeed it limited its conceptual assessment of the marks at issue to the single letter ‘k’, common to those marks. However, the relevant public will probably associate the combination ‘k water’ with the concept of water.
51. Therefore, in so far as the earlier mark does not convey any particular meaning, whereas the mark applied for will be associated with the concept of water, it must be held that the marks at issue are conceptually different.
67. In that regard, it should be borne in mind that, according to the case-law, the principle of interdependence should not be applied mechanically. Indeed, a mechanical application of the principle of interdependence does not ensure a correct global assessment of the likelihood of confusion (see, to that effect, judgment of 27 June 2019, Sandrone v EUIPO – J. García Carrión (Luciano Sandrone), T‑268/18, EU:T:2019:452, paragraph 95). Thus, in particular, there is nothing to preclude a finding that, in the light of the circumstances of a particular case, there is no likelihood of confusion, even where the goods are identical and there is a low degree of similarity between the marks at issue (see, to that effect, judgment of 15 October 2020, Laboratorios Ern v EUIPO – Bio-tec Biologische Naturverpackungen (BIOPLAST BIOPLASTICS FOR A BETTER LIFE), T‑2/20, not published, EU:T:2020:493, paragraph 79).
68. Furthermore, a finding that amounts to recognising a likelihood of confusion between two signs, one consisting primarily of a highly stylised, single capital letter and the other consisting of the same capital letter but written in a very different stylisation and combined with other word elements, would de facto amount to granting a monopoly over one capital letter of the alphabet for a specific range of goods. The Court has already had occasion to assess that risk, pointing out that the purpose of the opposition brought on the basis of a sign consisting of a single letter is to prevent the registration of a trade mark which is likely to give rise to a likelihood of confusion with an earlier mark, ‘in particular on account of its stylistic similarity’. In contrast, according to the Court, the purpose of the opposition is not to prevent the registration of a trade mark because it represents the same capital letter; nor is it to prevent the registration of all other trade marks consisting of such a letter (see, to that effect, judgment of 20 July 2017, Representation of a curved and angled line, T‑521/15, not published, EU:T:2017:536, paragraph 72).