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Not so sweet, says court

News Business 09.07.2012 Aaron Grunwald
Photo: Elliott Brown/Creative Commons

Legal: Not all flowers can be called roses, the EU General Court has ruled in a trademark case concerning the Royal Shakespeare Company.

The EU’s second highest second ruled in favour of the British theatre company and against an Austrian beverage concern over the use of the name “Royal Shakespeare.”

Graz-based Jackson International Trading filed European trademark applications to use the phrase for a line of beverages and catering services. In 2009 the cultural institution, located in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, won a decision--from the OHIM, the EU agency that manages European trademark disputes--blocking the Austrian firm from using the “Royal Shakespeare” term. The Graz firm was appealing this administrative judgement.

In its ruling on Friday, the Luxembourg-based EU General Court upheld the trademark bureau’s conclusion, saying the average consumer would assume there was a link between the two brands and therefore Jackson International Trading would unfairly “benefit from the power of attraction, the reputation and the prestige of the earlier trade mark for its own goods.”

While the Austrian company conceded that the Royal Shakespeare Company (photo) has “an ‘exceptional’ reputation in the United Kingdom for ‘theatre productions,’” it had argued that the reputation was limited geographically to Britain and to within the cultural sphere. The European court disagreed, saying the theatre’s “reputation is sufficient to establish a reputation at EU level.”

Rulings by the General Court can be appealed to the EU Court of Justice, which is based in the same Kirchberg judicial complex.