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Five notes from MARQUES Day 1

The Annual MARQUES Conference is breaking records and tackling digital technology in Copenhagen, Denmark. Here are five highlights from the first 24 hours

Lucky number

There are a record 777 people registered for this year’s MARQUES Conference. This represents a riposte from northern Europe to those who predicted that the Danish capital could not compete with sunny, exotic Monte Carlo where last year’s conference was held. That had just 720 registrations.

The last time MARQUES was held in Copenhagen, incidentally, was in 1993, when less than 300 people attended. A handful of this year’s attendees were also here back then: a highlight, apparently, was the Carlsberg brewery tour.

Opera open house

The opening reception consisted of a boat tour to see Copenhagen’s architectural highlights, followed by a reception at the Opera House. One of the bits of trivia conveyed by the boat guides was that the building’s architect, Henning Larsen, wasn’t happy with the finished product and refused to attend the opening. Cue discussions among lawyers attending about copyright and moral rights.

Disappointingly, a CTM application for Operaen København, filed in 2003, was withdrawn in 2005.

The power of parody

Today’s first session featured a debate between representatives of Google, Nestlé and (maker of Candy Crush) on online enforcement and when to take action. It’s a highly topical issue given the recent Vlaams Belang copyright ruling from the CJEU and the fact that parody is set to be mentioned as a defence to trade mark infringement in EU law.

The panel discussed various real examples of cases that tread the line between parody and brand abuse, including a video titled “Psychos around the world are counting on Scotch Blue”, a picture of Adolf Hitler drinking coffee and a social media user who calls herself “Purina”.

Refreshingly, the panel did not always agree on when it was appropriate to take action. But there was consensus that it can be better to use online forms provided by platforms, rather than going straight in with a legal letter, and that platforms will generally follow the law in the countries where they operate (if only because their employees can be threatened with jail if they don’t).

Disharmony in Europe

It’s an old story on this blog that EU member states lack harmonisation. A new perspective on this emerged today in a panel discussion on trade marks and unfair competition law. Given that unfair competition laws in the EU are diverse and likely to remain so, what are your best chances of enforcement?

Gregor Vos from the Netherlands argued that copyright may be your best friend, though others in the room were sceptical about this. The German participants in particular preferred to stick to unfair competition remedies. This is an argument that will run and run.

Eat my brand

The theme of this year’s conference is Traditional Brands in a Digital Market and inevitably there is a lot of discussion about social media: the best place to keep up to date is, inevitably, twitter – and the hashtag is #marques2014. The host hotel, meanwhile, was going for more traditional branding on its white chocolate cheesecake (see right).

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