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Cannabis trademark ruled out of order

The registration of the trade mark 'CANNABIS' is not valid in respect of the branding of beverages, according to a European Court of Justice ruling.

The Court's ruling  upheld an original decision made by The Office of Harmonization for the Internal Market (OHIM), in 2003, by declaring the registration of the trade mark 'CANNABIS' to be invalid in respect to the branding of beverages, on grounds that it is descriptive and misleading to the consumer.

The registration of the trade mark 'CANNABIS' is not valid in respect of the branding of beverages, according to a European Court of Justice ruling. The ruling upheld the original decision made by The Office of Harmonization for the Internal Market (OHIM), in 2003, by declaring the registration of the trade mark 'CANNABIS' to be invalid in respect to the branding of beverages, on grounds that it is descriptive and misleading to the consumer.

The European Court defended OHIM's decision by maintaining that there is a material link between the sign 'CANNABIS' and certain characteristics of the goods in question, due cannabis being used in the production of numerous foodstuffs, including beer and certain beverages.The European Court made reference to the Regulation on the Community Trade Mark, which states that; the registration of descriptive signs and indications which may, in trade, designate the kind, quality, intended purpose, and value is prohibited. 

The word ‘cannabis’ constitutes the scientific name of a flowering plant from which certain drugs are extracted and from which certain therapeutic substances may be obtained. The European Court  established that the average consumer may think, merely on seeing a beverage bearing the trade mark CANNABIS, that that mark describes the characteristics of the goods in question.

Giampietro Torresan, the company director who orignally obtained a registered trade mark for the name in 2003, disputes that decision and maintains that the trade mark CANNABIS has distinctive character, given that it is both a common name and a purely fanciful mark and has no connection, even indirect, with beer and beverages in general. However, the European Court indicated  that character is a determining factor for the consumer when he makes his purchase because he will be attracted by the possibility of obtaining similar sensations to those he obtains from the consumption of cannabis.

To a similar effect, the European Court argued on linguistic grounds  that the word ‘cannabis’ derives from Greek, Persian, and Latin scientific terms, and present in a number of European Community languages, rendering it comprehensible to the target consumer throughout the Community. Consequently, the average consumer will perceive the trade mark CANNABIS as a description of one of the characteristics of those goods. 

On these grounds, the European Court dismissed Mr Torresan’s action and upheld OHIM’s decision to declare the registration of the trade mark CANNABIS to be invalid in respect of beverages potentially containing hemp.

European Court of Justice - Justice and Application - Full Text


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