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OE vs. EO – Judgment of the Riga Regional Court of 27 November, 2019 in the civil case No. C30472418

Initially in 2017 the Latvian Industrial Property Board of Appeal (hereinafter – the Board of Appeal) examined an opposition, which was filed on behalf of the Swiss company LAUGA SA against a trademark applied by the Russian company LLC GRINKOSMETIKS. The contested mark was applied for various hygiene, perfumery, cosmetic and beauty products in class 3. The marks involved in the dispute are the following:

Earlier trademark:

OE

 

(EUTM No. 04197834)

Contested trademark:

Zīmējums

(reg. No. M 70 324)

On the basis of Article 7 (1), paragraph 2 of the Latvian Law on Trademarks and Geographical Indications, the Board of Appeal satisfied the opposition filed by LAUGA SA and admitted likelihood of confusion between the marks among the relevant consumers. The Board of Appeal acknowledged that a consumer who has previously encountered the earlier mark “OE”, when seeing goods with the contested mark may not remember the reverse order of letters “O” and “E” in the marks and therefore may confuse these marks. It is also noted that likelihood of confusion between the marks cannot be ruled out by the graphic representation of the contested mark since consumers are accustomed to the fact that cosmetic product packaging contains many descriptive and less descriptive elements.

In 2018, the Russian company LLC GRINKOSMETIKS appealed the Board of Appeal’s judgment before the Vidzeme District Court. Contrary to the findings of the Board of Appeal, the court of first instance found that the reverse order of the letters and pronunciation of both marks leads to a conclusion of a low degree of phonetic and visual similarity. Thus, the court concluded that there is no likelihood of confusion between the marks.

This court’s judgment was appealed by LAUGA SA before the Riga Regional Court. According to the judgment rendered by the Riga Regional Court of 27 November 2019, the court found the appeal as unreasonable. Moreover, the court admitted that the visual and phonetic similarity between the marks at issue is very low and the combination of letters “OE”, “EO” or “EOO” do not have any semantic meaning. Overall, the court agreed that there is no likelihood of confusion between the marks.

The court also referred to a number of findings embedded in the case-law of the European Union. In particular, the shorter the sign, the easier it will be for the consumer to perceive all its individual elements. In addition, for goods that are sold in supermarkets where the consumers are more guided by the visual impact of such products, the visual impression of the sign is particularly important and the figurative elements play an important role.

Finally, the Riga Regional Court in its judgment noted that an identical dispute had been previously examined by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO).

In the present case, the Russian company LLC GRINKOSMETIKS was represented before the Board of Appeal and in both court instances by trademark attorneys, lawyers Gatis Meržvinskis, Kristīne Ostrovska and Gunta Zariņa.

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