This case with is not perfectly “my cup of tea” but with a little bit of creativity one might see “restrictive tendencies” in the ECJ’s judgement and one might wonder what this will mean for the topic of Keyword Advertising.
I just took a brief look at the decision and the second paragraph seems to be the most interesting one as it disallows others -in the context of comparative advertisement, under certain circumstances- to profit from the goodwill of the mark even if the essential function of the trade mark is not impaired. It is enough that other functions of the trade mark are impaired. Still this case was about comparative advertisements, taking unfair advantage and presentation of goods as imitations or replicas… so let’s see…
I hope that other, smarter bloggers and writers , who know the case much better than I do, will soon brighten up the issue for me 🙂
[UPDATE:] The IPKats already did so. Read their article on this decision here
_________________________________1. Article 5(2) of First Council Directive 89/104/EEC […] must be interpreted as meaning that the taking of unfair advantage of the distinctive character or the repute of a mark, within the meaning of that provision, does not require that there be a likelihood of confusion or a likelihood of detriment to the distinctive character or the repute of the mark or, more generally, to its proprietor. The advantage arising from the use by a third party of a sign similar to a mark with a reputation is an advantage taken unfairly by that third party of the distinctive character or the repute of that mark where that party seeks by that use to ride on the coat-tails of the mark with a reputation in order to benefit from the power of attraction, the reputation and the prestige of that mark and to exploit, without paying any financial compensation, the marketing effort expended by the proprietor of the mark in order to create and maintain the mark’s image.
2. Article 5(1)(a) of Directive 89/104 must be interpreted as meaning that the proprietor of a registered trade mark is entitled to prevent the use by a third party, in a comparative advertisement which does not satisfy all the conditions, laid down in Article 3a(1) of Council Directive 84/450/EEC […], under which comparative advertising is permitted, of a sign identical with that mark in relation to goods or services which are identical with those for which that mark was registered, even where such use is not capable of jeopardising the essential function of the mark, which is to indicate the origin of the goods or services, provided that such use affects or is liable to affect one of the other functions of the mark.
3. Article 3a(1) of Directive 84/450, as amended by Directive 97/55, must be interpreted as meaning that an advertiser who states explicitly or implicitly in comparative advertising that the product marketed by him is an imitation of a product bearing a well-known trade mark presents ‘goods or services as imitations or replicas’ within the meaning of Article 3a(1)(h). The advantage gained by the advertiser as a result of such unlawful comparative advertising must be considered to be an advantage taken unfairly of the reputation of that mark within the meaning of Article 3a(1)(g). _________________________________
Article 3a(1) of Council Directive 84/450/EEC:1. Comparative advertising shall, as far as the comparison is concerned, be permitted when the following conditions are met: (a) it is not misleading according to Articles 2 (2), 3 and 7 (1); (b) it compares goods or services meeting the same needs or intended for the same purpose; (c) it objectively compares one or more material, relevant, verifiable and representative features of those goods and services, which may include price; (d) it does not create confusion in the market place between the advertiser and a competitor or between the advertiser’s trade marks, trade names, other distinguishing marks, goods or services and those of a competitor; (e) it does not discredit or denigrate the trade marks, trade names, other distinguishing marks, goods, services, activities, or circumstances of a competitor; (f) for products with designation of origin, it relates in each case to products with the same designation; (g) it does not take unfair advantage of the reputation of a trade mark, trade name or other distinguishing marks of a competitor or of the designation of origin of competing products; (h) it does not present goods or services as imitations or replicas of goods or services bearing a protected trade mark or trade name.