Feature: European Union Overturns LV’s Trademark of Checkerboard Pattern
Louis Vuitton’s quest to trademark its beloved Damier checkerboard pattern may have finally come to a close. Trademark filings brought on by luxury designers are likely to face challenges as courts are heavily scrutinizing ‘trademark distinctiveness’ from these types of brands.
In May we reported that the European Union’s General Court upheld a prior ruling by the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM) that rejected the fashion houses request to own the design. The decision stemmed from OHIM’s feelings that the design was too commonplace for it to be owned by a singular brand.
Reported recently, the European Union General Court refused to overturn the cancellation of two community trademarks for the pattern owned by Louis Vuitton Malletier. The two color schemes for the Damier checkerboard pattern included a dark brown and beige that was trademarked back in 1998 and a black and grey combination trademarked in 2008. The Paris-based fashion label has been battling disputes over this pattern since 2009 in a slew of lengthy cases stemming from competitors who claim the Damier print did not greatly differ from typical patterns for leather goods.
Plaintiff in this case, OHIM, argued that “Louis Vuitton’s color combinations were not in themselves distinctive because they did not alter the public’s perception of the distinctive checkerboard mark. Simply, seeing a checkerboard pattern on an object does not indicate that the object’s source is Louis Vuitton.” The OHIM further claimed that the simple checkerboard design is very often used for décor, thus Louis Vuitton’s trademark failed to fulfill the essential ‘identification/origin’ function requirement classified under trademark law.
In a last ditch effort to be afforded the Damier design trademark, Louis Vuitton appealed to the European Court of Justice, however; the court dismissed the appeal upholding the General Court’s decision to deny the fashion house trademark reign of the pattern. The court’s decision was heavily driven by the brands consumer market base that caters specifically to luxury goods as opposed to the average EU consumer. Because of this, many other designers may face a lot of heat in the trademark arena if they cannot establish uniqueness across classes and the jurisdictions of the EU.
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