Trip Trap SA has nothing to do with chairs. The company organises events and games, so-called ‘escape games’, including some catering services. So what’s the connection with a chair, you ask? To protect its brand, the company applied for European registration for the Trip Trap trademark for, among other things, ‘events’ and ‘catering services’.
Stokke, the owner of the well-known chair, filed an opposition. Stokke demonstrated the solid reputation of the Tripp Trapp high chair. ‘But we are active in a completely different economic sector’, the Swiss protested. ‘That’s hardly confusing, is it?’ Correct, according to the European trademark office EUIPO, but the strict requirement of the likelihood of confusion does not apply to well-known trademarks. Association or a link may be sufficient for an infringement.
According to EUIPO, consumers will establish a link between the two brands. But how? According to the trademark agency, restaurants are required to have safe chairs for children. The Tripp Trapp is a high-quality high chair. So when consumers see a restaurant called Trip Trap, they may think their kids will be catered with Tripp Trapp chairs, EUIPO said. Hmmm, a pretty far-fetched association?
But a link or association is not enough for infringement of a well-known trademark. There must also be a risk of damage. EUIPO also managed to locate that damage reasonably easily. According to EUIPO, the well-known Tripp Trapp trademark is associated with high quality and iconic design. The chances are that this positive image of the well-known Tripp Trapp will reflect on the almost identical Trip Trap trademark. Consumers will expect similar qualities from Trip Trap. That’s called unfair advantage, and is not allowed, according to EUIPO. So no trademark registration for Trip Trap.
With well-known brands, it’s always difficult to estimate whether the consumer will link two trademarks and whether there is unfair advantage. EUIPO often seems willing to favour the well-known brand. What probably gave the advantage in this case, is that Tripp Trapp is a notable and unique wordmark, and the Swiss got too close.