Community trade mark
Court throws out ‘Royal Shakespeare’ drinks brand
By Nathalie Vandystadt | Friday 06 July 2012
It is not just anyone who can align themselves with Shakespeare... In a judgement, on 6 July, the EU’s General Court found that the brand ‘Royal Shakespeare’, approved by the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM) for a company marketing alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, as well as dealing in catering, was damaging to the famous British theatre group, ‘The Royal Shakespeare Company’.
The OHIM registered the drinks company’s commercial brand in 2003, but in 2006, the theatre company asked for it to be annulled, saying that it allowed the drinks company to profit unfairly from the theatre group’s fame. The brand ‘RSC-Royal Shakespeare Company’ was registered in 1999 for theatrical performances.The OHIM agreed with the RSC, but the food-processing company in question, Jackson International Trading (JIT), subsequently appealed against the decision.
However, the court rejected JIT’s argument, recognising the similarity of the two brands and concluding that there was indeed a risk of association. Since the contested brand used the name ‘Royal Shakespeare’, the court found that the two brands are visually, phonetically and conceptually similar, so that the average consumer would establish a link between them. Moreover, in using the contested brand, JIT would benefit from the power of attraction provided by the reputation and prestige of the original brand in order to sell its own products - which have no connection at all with the theatre. Profiting in this way from the original brand would be unfair and would provide no advantages for the theatre company, the court said.