France: Is Neuschwanstein an IGO?
The name of the castle of Ludwig II of Bavaria, Neuschwanstein, was filed as a European trade mark by the Free State of Bavaria in many classes of goods and services (3, 8, 14-16, 18, 21, 25, 28, 30, 32-6, 38 and 44). As its validity was contested, the question arose as to whether such a name was descriptive of the geographical origin of the goods and services claimed in the application.
In a judgment dated September 6 2018 (C-488/16), the CJEU confirmed that this trade mark was not an indication of the geographical origin since this place was not that of the production of the goods or the provision of the services it designated.
The Court stated that the fact that the products concerned, namely products for everyday consumption, were linked to keepsakes because of the affixing of the name of the castle, did not make that name an essential and descriptive characteristic of those products.
Moreover, the fact that these products and services were offered in a given place, in this case NEUSCHWANSTEIN Castle, could as such mean that the name of that place designated characteristics, qualities or particularities specific to and linked to the geographical origin of those products and services (crafts, tradition or climate).
NEUSCHWANSTEIN Castle is known, not for keepsakes, but for its architectural singularity and, in fact, this place of marketing cannot be considered as a description of an essential quality or characteristic in the eyes of the relevant public, knowing, moreover, that these souvenirs are also sold beyond the surroundings of the castle.
NEUSCHWANSTEIN is thus a fancy name that allows the relevant public, through its affixing, to distinguish the designated goods and services from those sold or provided in other tourist or commercial areas.
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