Listening to Dutch Radio 1 this morning in my car I picked up the story that Fortis might be on its last legs as the bank's trade mark in the Netherlands. In Het Financieel Dagblad journalist Jorinde Schrijver reports today that the trade mark Fortis has fallen to pieces. Advertising guru Eugène Roorda (Roorda Reclamebureau) agrees with Meindert van den Heuvel (Young & Rubicam) that it will be very difficult for the Dutch state - who bought the Dutch operations of the Fortis bank as well as the ABN AMRO bank, which was sold last year to Fortis - to rescue the image of the trade mark. Both take the view that ABN AMRO has the best papers to be the sole trade mark to continue the operations. Roorda: 'Fortis is a compulsively and invented complex trade mark identity of Amev, the Direktbank, De Amersfoortse, Europeesche Verzekeringen and Stad Rotterdam Verzekeringen. It is an invented identity. It is clear from the swirling logo too: small cubes can not only easily connect to it, but fall down from it too. As if that was already calculated in the design phase.' The advantage of ABN AMRO as leading trade mark lies in what Roorda calls 'Hollandse glorie' (the pride of Holland): ABN AMRO brings in this feature for free, 'Just like the ANWB, KLM, the Hak jars and Verkade cookies.' This matches very well with what the public needs in this 'breezy, globalizing juncture. It is our oldest bank, one of the oldest in the world. It smells a bit like King Willem I and even Michiel de Ruyter.'
This weekend Dutch Minister of Finance Wouter Bos announced on television that both banks will temporary use their own names, but he will leave the ultimate decision on this issue to the responsible commercial people. Later on on his blog
Bos joked with the question whether Dutch soccer team Feyenoord
(sponsored by Fortis) wouldn't be better off playing with shirts bearing the word 'Schatkist
' (treasury). Van den Heuvel comments that this is a delicate matter, especially since ABN AMRO is still too much connected with Ajax
, and what if Fortis disappears?
From a legal point of view - a viewpoint not covered by the story - it is quite interesting too what will happen with the trade mark. The word mark 'Fortis
' for example is registered in the Benelux in the name of 'Fortis N.V.;Fortis SA/NV
, Koningsstraat 20,B-1000 Brussel, België' (
information taken from trade mark registration 0496266
). Is this one company? Or is there a joint ownership? Furthermore their are a lot of Fortis companies that own Fortis related trade marks. If I was Wouter Bos I would (let) someone (a team would be even better) have a good look at the ECJ's decision in IHT versus Ideal Standard (Case C-9/93, June 22, 1994)
on exhaustion of trade mark rights.