The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) recently ruled on opposition proceedings brought by tyre company Michelin, relying on their earlier trade mark for a stylised letter X registered for 'Envelopes, inner tubes for pneumatic tyres' to oppose Continental's registration for a stylised version of 'XKING' for 'Tyres; Inner tubes for tyres'.
Michelin was successful at first instance, with the court taking into account the relevant goods, visual similarity, aural similarity and distinctiveness of the earlier mark, finding that it had normal inherent distinctiveness. Whilst Continental successfully appealed the initial decision, Michelin was ultimately successful before the CJEU.
Trade marks can have varying scopes of protection. For example, one might have expected Michelin's mark here to have a limited scope of protection, because it is simply a letter of the alphabet with some stylisation. On the other hand, one would expect that a mark for a more detailed combination of letters or more complex stylisation would be afforded a wider scope of protection. The practical impact of this decision is that the monopoly afforded to Michelin for its trade mark for a stylised 'X' is actually fairly wide (wide enough to prevent Continental registering 'XKING' as a stylised mark); Michelin have used a seemingly narrow mark to enforce in respect of a relatively wide scope of protection. The decision itself and the court's reasoning can be found here.
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