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Now in its twelfth year, Class 46 is dedicated to European trade mark law and practice. This weblog is written by a team of enthusiasts who want to spread the word and share their thoughts with others.

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No peace for UNOX in Switzerland

The Italian manufacturer of ovens Unox Srl sought to extend the protection of its UNOX trade mark (used for ovens in class 11) to Switzerland, but didn't reckon with the over-zealous Swiss IPO and Supreme Court (the CTM was registered with the OHIM without problems). The Swiss IPO refused protection because UNOX contains the letters UNO, which are exclusively reserved for the United Nations and may not be registered as a trade mark.

The Federal Adminstrative Court begged to differ. No association was created between the United Nations and the products designated by the trade mark UNOX. Art. 6ter of the Paris Convention only required that the registration of official signs be refused if "of such a nature as to suggest to the public that a connection exists between the organization concerned and the armorial bearings, flags, emblems, abbreviations, and names, or if such use or registration is probably [...] of such a nature as to mislead the public as to the existence of a connection between the user and the organization".

The Supreme Court overruled the decision. Switzerland had not limited the protection of official signs to instances where, by the use of the sign, an association was created between the applicant and the official organisation. Only where the official sign lost all distinctiveness (e.g. "Uno Due Tre") could it be registered. Otherwiese, the ban was absolute.

The decision is a disaster for Unox Srl and other applicants. Firstly, not only cannot Unox Srl register its trade mark in Switzerland, but under the applicable law, the use of official signs - and the Supreme Court just ruled that UNOX was such use - is a criminal offense. In other words, if Unox Srl continues to distribute its ovens under the UNOX brand in Switzerland, it risks prosecution.

Secondly, the list of protected signs is long and keeps growing. Under the first entry "A", it contains the abbreviations ACCOBAMS . ADB . AEA . AEE . AEN . AELE . AELS . AEWA . AFE . AID . AIE . AIEA . AIO . AIPO . ALADI . ALALC . ALALE . ALPENKONVENTION . AMAGE . AMPO . APEC . APPA . ARABSAT . ASCOBANS . ASEAN. If your trade mark contains any of these - even if no assocation whatsoever is created with the international organization is concerned - you risk losing your mark in Switzerland, and worse, criminal sanctions if you continue to use it.

Posted by: Mark Schweizer @ 07.39
Tags: Switzerland, absolute grounds for refusal, paris convention, emblems, abbreviations, uno, ,
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MARQUES does not guarantee the accuracy of the information in this blog. The views are those of the individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect those of MARQUES. Seek professional advice before action on any information included here.

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