The EU General Court has affirmed decisions that the signature word mark and logo belonging to HP Hewlett Packard Group are distinctive.
The Second Chamber delivered judgment today, April 24 in two related cases. The two judgments are available here and here.
IT company HP owns a range of trademarks, including the word mark ‘HP’, EU trademark (EUTM) number 000,052,449, and a figurative logo which contains the letters ‘HP’, EUTM 008,579,021.
The marks were registered at the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) in 1996 and 2009 respectively, and cover a range of technology-related goods and services in numerous classes.
In 2015, Polish company Senetic asked the EUIPO to declare both registrations as invalid on the grounds that they are descriptive and lack distinctiveness. The request in relation to both marks was dismissed by the EUIPO and, in 2017, by the EUIPO’s Fifth Board of Appeal.
Senetic appealed against the decisions at the EU General Court.
Senetic claimed that the marks containing ‘HP’ were purely descriptive, as the two-letter signs are commonly used to describe the technological goods and services covered by the registrations.
The figurative logo, which comprises two letters inscribed in a circle, is perceived by the public as a technical indication of a type of technology product, Senetic said, and is therefore “a combination of descriptive elements and a non-distinctive graphic”.
In addition the Polish company argued that third parties, including Senetic, produce and sell goods under a similar sign to those registered to HP. Senetic said HP was aware of this possible confusion.
Today, the General Court upheld the EUIPO’s decisions in relation to both marks for the same reasons.
The court affirmed the board’s finding that a trademark cannot lack distinctiveness “simply because” it consists of one or two letters, and said Senetic failed to establish a sufficiently direct relationship between the ‘HP’ letters and the goods and services supplied by the technology company.
It added that the ‘HP’ sign is commonly understood to be a reference to Hewlett and Packard, the founders of the HP company, and therefore it cannot be argued that the ‘HP’ marks lack distinctive character.
As Senetic failed to provide evidence that HP knew of any third parties using a similar sign to market its goods and services at the time of filing the ‘HP’ marks, the court was unable to find any evidence of bad faith by HP when it filed to register the marks.
The General Court therefore dismissed the appeal and ordered Senetic to pay the costs.