A kick to a ball: a conceptually weak trademark

The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) Board of Appeal has recently stated that signs that have to do with soccer lack a strong conceptual identity when related to goods or services sold or offered in a sport context.

The decision was issued during the proceeding R 640/2020-4 on the opposition against the trademarkfiled by ex-soccer player Jurgen Klinsmann brought by PANINI S.p.a, owner of many earlier trademarks considered similar among which and .

At first, the Board agreed with Panini recognizing a visual similarity between the signs as well as a strong conceptual similarity for which they can be considered almost identical.

Klinsmann opposed the decision of EUIPO and the Board of Appeal, after having examined the case, stated that, contrary to what decided by the Opposition Division, the conflicting figurative marks are dissimilar and consequently a likelihood of confusion was not found.

The Board pointed out that “the likelihood of confusion must be determined by means of a global appraisal of the visual, phonetic and conceptual similarity of the signs, on the basis of the overall impression given by them”. A similarity between marks exists when they are partially identical from at least one of the three point of view indicated.

From a visual point of view, the marks were not considered dissimilar, as Klinsmann’s sign consists in a black and white sketch with a circle around the sketchy element and represents a soccer player in a different position if compared to that of the earlier marks of Panini. The overall impression of the signs in comparison is therefore different as there is not a single element of the earlier marks that is reproduced in the contested mark.

Moreover from a conceptual point of view, the Board stated that the representation of a soccer player must be considered weak for goods concerning soccer and sports in general and in particular for class 25 referring to sportive clothing and for Class 16, with regards to stickers and albums.

Such conceptual weakness has repercussions on the possible similarity of the marks, as if “no clear concept can be attached to the contested sign”, there is not a conceptual similarity between the conflicting marks. Having no similarity on a phonetical level as the marks are purely figurative, the Board stated that the marks are not in conflict and that the mark can be consequently registered.