Istanbul Law Review
The Approach of The Court of Justice of the European Union Towards the Protection of Three-Dimensional MarksAlptekin Köksal
Three-dimensionalshapes are themost common type of non-traditionalmarks becoming widespread. Especially in the last two decades, trade mark applications regarding the protection of three-dimensional shapes have increased significantly. Assessment for the registration of three-dimensional shape marks is no different from other marks types, as the Court of Justice of the European Union suggests. However, in addition to standard trade mark protection requirements, threedimensional shapes must fulfil additional criteria. The EU Trade Mark Regulation and the EU Trade Mark Directive include special provisions for three-dimensional marks. According to the law, three-dimensional shapes which result from the nature of the goods, are necessary to obtain a technical result, or give substantial value to the goods, are excluded from trade mark protection in the EU. The Court of Justice of the European Union is quite strict in interpreting the abovementioned criteria for threedimensional shape marks. As an inherent result, obtaining trade mark protection for three-dimensional shapes becomes increasingly difficult for proprietors. The CJEU gives particular importance to the public interest clause and ensures that common shapes keep open for competition in the market since shapes are finite and certain shapes are in common use. The CJEU justifies the conduct by claiming that time-restricted intellectual property rights such as patent or design rights should not be extended through the trade mark route for specific products. The first and second subsections of the exclusion seem to be appropriate. However, the third exclusion is problematic due to its wording and interpretation by the CJEU. Thus, this study suggests that narrowing the scope of the third subsection would fit the purposes of trade mark protection regarding three-dimensional shapes.
Avrupa Birliği Adalet Divanı’nın Üç Boyutlu İşaretlerin Korunmasına YaklaşımıAlptekin Köksal
Üç boyutlu şekiller, giderek yaygınlaşan yeni tip işaretlerin en yaygın türüdür. Özellikle son yirmi yılda üç boyutlu şekillerin marka olarak korunmasına yönelik başvurular oldukça artmıştır. Üç boyutlu şekil işaretlerinin tescili için değerlendirme, Avrupa Birliği Adalet Divanı’nın da belirttiği gibi diğerişaret türlerinden farklı olmamakla birlikte, üç boyutlu şekilleriçin ticari marka olmanın genel koşullarına ek olarak ayrıca ek kriterler bulunmaktadır. Bu doğrultuda, AB Ticari Marka Yönetmeliği ve AB Ticari Marka Direktifi, üç boyutlu markaların tescili için özel hükümler içermektedir. Yasaya göre, malların doğasından kaynaklanan, teknik birsonuç elde etmek için gerekli olan veya mallara önemli bir değer kazandıran üç boyutlu şekiller, AB’de ticari marka korumasının dışındadır. Avrupa Birliği Adalet Divanı, üç boyutlu şekil işaretleri için yukarıda belirtilen kriterleri yorumlamada oldukça katıdır. Doğal bir sonuç olarak, üç boyutlu şekiller için ticari marka koruması elde etmek, marka sahipleri için giderek daha zor hale gelmektedir. ABAD, kamu yararı şartına özel önem verdiği için ve ortak şekillerin piyasada rekabete açık kalmasını sağlamaya çalıştığı için, ortak kullanımda olan belli başlı şekiller ticari marka olamamaktadır. Buna ek olarak, ABAD, patent veya tasarım hakları gibi belirli bir zaman sınırı olan fikri mülkiyet haklarının ticari marka koruması ile genişletilmemesi gerektiğini savunmaktadır. Bu sebeple ek kriterin birinci ve ikinci alt başlıkları kanunun amacına uygun görünmektedir. Bununla birlikte, üçüncü istisna, yazımının açık uçlu olması ve ABAD tarafından katı yorumlanması nedeniyle sorunludur. Bu nedenle, makale, üçüncü alt başlığın kapsamının daraltılmasının, üç boyutlu şekillere ilişkin marka koruma amaçlarına daha uygun olacağını ileri sürmektedir.
According to the practice, there are two types of signs sought registration for: traditional and non-traditional marks. Traditional marks can be listed nonexhaustively as words, logos, slogans, a combination of words, logos and slogans, pictures or drawings. On the other hand, many non-traditional (non-conventional) marks are more widely accepted due to the expansion of trade mark law. These can be listed as single colour marks, hologram marks, shape marks (three-dimensional or 3D) and sound, scent and taste marks. The three-dimensional mark is the most common type of non-traditional mark. In the EU, three-dimensional marks take up to 5 per cent of all trade marks. Although the assessment for three-dimensional marks should not be different from any other mark during the registration process, as the Court of Justice states, being a sign and having a distinctive character are not the only requirements for three-dimensional shapes to fulfil the protection criteria, a three-dimensional shape needs to overcome other absolute grounds for refusal indicated in the EU Trade Mark Regulation 2017/1001 and the EU Trade Mark Directive 2015/2436/EU. Special provisions regarding shapes or other characteristics indicate that shape marks need to fulfil three additional criteria. Article 4(1)(e) of the EU Trade Mark Directive and Article 7(1)(e) of the EU Trade Mark Regulation exclude shape marks that result from the nature of the goods themselves, which are necessary to obtain a technical result, or which give substantial value to the goods, from trade mark protection in the EU. On top of that, the Court of Justice of the European Union and EU Intellectual Property Office, to some extent, tend to be extremely strict in interpreting the law regulating the protection of three-dimensional shape marks. As a result, obtaining trade mark protection for three-dimensional shapes becomes increasingly difficult for proprietors.
There are several policy considerations behind the conduct of courts and intellectual property offices alongside lawmakers’ intention in the EU regarding why they seem to be rather unwilling to grant trade mark protection to three-dimensional shapes. Threedimensional shapes as indicators of origin generally suffer from two main problem regarding trade mark protection. The first problem is the distinctiveness criterion which is the same for all types of marks, and there are no special requirements for threedimensional shapes to fulfil. However, common shapes or cheap packaging shapes (cheap in terms of production costs and R&D) usually lack distinctive character. As they have rather common and obvious shapers, they cannot become indicators of origin. Also, consumers do not necessarily distinguish products for daily-life use. In other words, common shapes are not as indicative as figures, logos or words in the eyes of consumers. On top of that, the CJEU gives particular importance to the public interest clause and ensures that common shapes keep open for competition in the market since shapes are finite and certain shapes are in common use. The second problem regarding three-dimensional shapes is the special provisions: Article 4(1)(e) of the EU Trade Mark Directive and Article 7(1)(e) of the EU Trade Mark Regulation. Established case law indicates that if a product is protectable by other intellectual property rights such as patents or designs, additional trade mark protection should not be an option since trade mark protection gives indefinite monopoly rights to use the mark, subject to renewal. The CJEU justifies the conduct by claiming that time-restricted intellectual property rights, such as patents and designs, should not be extended by granting trade mark protection to such products. As the first exclusion dictates, shapes exclusively resulting from the nature of goods cannot be registered. It means that functional shapes that a specific design is necessary for the product itself, then these shapes cannot be registered to ensure healthy competition in the market even if they have some distinctive character. In addition, the second exclusion dictates that shapes necessary to obtain a technical result are also kept out of trade mark protection. The same concerns and reasoning apply to this provision. In this sense, the approach of the CJEU to three-dimensional on the grounds of the first and second subsections of the provision is appropriate.
However, as this study suggests, the third exclusion is problematic due to its wording and interpretation by the CJEU. The clause indicates that shapes that give substantial value to products cannot be registered as trade marks. This clause is open-ended and allows for wide interpretations, which could completely exclude three-dimensional shapes that give a value or a character from trade mark protection. Three-dimensional shapes with distinctive character, unique, not a result of a technical function or nature, and giving pure aesthetic value should be registrable since they can function as commercial trade marks and indicate the origin of products. Nevertheless, the purpose of lawmakers is to maintain a distinction between trade marks and other intellectual property rights. Thus, abolishing the third exclusion completely might not be a good consideration, but narrowing its scope is needed for the purposes of trade mark protection regarding three-dimensional shapes.