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The burden of being famous

CalvinKleinAfter many years of procedural actions, there is finally a decision in the Irish opposition between the well known fashion brand Calvin Klein and calinkalin, a brand for (mainly) maternity wear.

Calvin Klein argued that consumers could be confused. The Irish Trademarks Office should take into account that Calvin Klein is widely known which leads to a larger protection of the mark. Moreover, the marks are filed for identical products.

As a bit expected, the opposition has now been rejected by the Irish Trademarks Office: the marks are considered to be dissimilar, a likelihood of confusion is therefore not present. Despite some similarities, the differences prevail. A decision that we can understand. And also a decision with some interesting considerations.

In this decision the degree of conceptual similarity between the marks has been examined. The Irish Trademarks Office follows the policy of the OHIM: the fact that in some cases a name reflects a family name, can have a significant role. Calinkalin is a fantasy brand, on the other hand Calvin Klein refers to the founder. As this name is well-known, this creates a conceptual difference between the trademarks.

Also interesting is the consideration that although famous brands have a greater scope of protection, “their standing in the marketplace means they are less likely to be confused with other marks”. This is because in the opinion of the Irish Trademarks Office “consumers keep perfect pictures of extremely well-known marks in their minds, not imperfect pictures.” Undoubtedly well-known brands will disagree with this opinion. It does however reflect the difficulties of judges and office with the consequences of reputation and fame.

Arnaud Bos

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