Interesting judgment of the Court of Justice last week in respect of the trademarks F1 and Formula 1. The Ohim and the Court First Instance make a mistake that people often do: the mix famous trademarks with generic ones. Trademarks are sometimes so well known that people think these belong to the general language and designate an event or product. In the case of Formula 1 and F1, this is incorrect, even for non-racing enthusiasts (like us) it is clear that Formula 1 racing event is a well-known event originating and under the supervision of Formula 1.

This judgment is particularly interesting because the Court of Justice ruled that the Ohim nor the Court may rule on the validity of national trademark registrations. Only national courts and national trademark offices can question national registrations. Thus, the consideration by the Ohim that the F1 trademark is generic is not allowed. MarkMatters.com assumes that the European courts can discuss the degree of distinctiveness of a national mark, otherwise it would be very difficult to render decisions, but a certain degree of distinctiveness must be granted to a national trademark.

This decision could enhance the decision to maintain national marks, along a possible European trademark as these national trademark could act as an trustful additional basis for an opposition. Another interesting point is whether this judgment also applies to national trademark offices. The offices should grant European trademark a minimum of protection.

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