Trade Marks in different languages can be conceptually similar

The EU General Court has dismissed an appeal against a decision of an OHIM Board of Appeal in which it upheld the success of an opposition to registration of the mark ‘ATHEIST’ for goods and services in classes 18, 25 and 35.

The opposition was based on earlier registrations of the mark ‘ATHɒ, which is a misspelling of the French word athée, meaning ‘atheist’.

The General Court stated that the two marks shared a medium level of visual and phonetic similarity, and that the marks were conceptually similar.

The General Court further stated that the mark applied for, which had no direct meaning in French, could be perceived by French consumers who do not understand English, or by those who did not realise that it was an English word, as a reference to the French word “athée”.

Further, it was highly likely that the meaning of the English word “atheist” would be understood by French consumers generally.

The Board of Appeal therefore found that the relevant public might believe that the goods and services in question were supplied or provided by the same undertakings. In particular, it was not inconceivable that the relevant public might perceive those marks as being related marks, designating different product lines, in so far as the earlier mark was entirely contained in the mark applied for, although without an accent on the letter “e”.


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