Problem in One Country

In the case of a European trademark registration, the rule is that if a trademark is already registered in just one of the 27 EU countries and it is deemed too similar to a new European application, this can be an obstacle for the entire European registration. This is the challenge Google is now facing.


Are the brands sufficiently different?

Of course, Google argued that Bulgarians would not confuse the trademarks ePay and GPAY. According to Google, even in Bulgaria, people understand very well that the word ‘pay’ simply means ‘to pay’. Therefore, how could one claim protection for such a descriptive element? The distinctive G instead of an E should surely provide enough differentiation between the trademarks.

Bulgarians don’t speak English

However, the Court didn’t agree. According to the Court, Google has not been able to demonstrate that Bulgarians understand the meaning of the English word ‘pay’. Moreover, a 2016 Eurostat survey revealed that the majority of the Bulgarian population does not speak any foreign language, including English.


Because the average Bulgarian doesn’t recognize the element ‘Pay,’ they may view ePay as a distinctive trademark, perhaps even a fantasy name. Placing GPAY next to it naturally comes very close and can be confusing. Therefore, Google will not get a registration for GPAY. What to do now? Would the Bulgarians be receptive to an attractive financial offer from Google?

Bas Kist


Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash