The European Union’s General Court reached a judgment in July 2013 that the Euro symbol (€), is a protected symbol under EU law and cannot be registered as a trademark by businesses.
Euro symbol as a trademark
The case concerned a company which registered a logo with the EU’s Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM) in relation to financial services it offered. The logo contained a similar emblem to that of the Euro symbol.
After the logo was registered the European Commission applied to OHIM to have it declared invalid.
The Office originally rejected the application on the grounds that the logo would not be interpreted as a heraldic imitation of the protected euro symbol and was not an identical reproduction of the symbol.
This decision was reversed by OHIM’s second appeal board which found that that the public would consider the logo to be identical to the euro symbol. Given the goods and services sold by the company, OHIM decided that there was a risk that the public would be misled into believing that there was a connection between the trademark owner and the EU institutions.
The company then appealed to the European Union’s General Court (case ref.: T-3/12).
The company attempted to argue that the sign it had used was not an identical replication of the euro symbol, as it was coloured differently and was connected to the letter ‘e’. The court rejected this argument, stating that the trademark in question was an imitation of the euro symbol and was not significantly different.
The company also tried to argue that the public would not draw a connection between the company and any European Union authorities, as the euro symbol was purely a designation of currency. The court rejected this argument finding that the public may believe that the services being offered originated from, were guaranteed by, or endorsed by the authorities in the European Union.
Businesses should exercise care when designing their logos. Logos which are capable of misleading the public into believing that there is a connection between the trademark owner and a particular public authority are likely to face invalidity applications. This is especially the case if the trademark is an identical copy or an imitation of an emblem of particular public interest.
For more information on registering a trademark in Germany and the European Union, call our team of expert German lawyers on 0221 / 951 563 0 (Beratung bundesweit).