June 2018. Fashion retailer C&A has failed in its bid to halt the registration of the C&J brand as a European trademark for clothing. In its ruling, the Opposition Division of the European Trademark Office EUIPO concluded that there was no risk of consumers confusing the two.
Ampersand not distinctive
C&A’s opposition was based on the word mark C&A and various C&A device marks. According to EUIPO, the ampersand (&) is widely used in trademarks to separate two letters (e.g. H&M, D&G, P&C and B&O) and is therefore not very distinctive.
Ampersand widely used
EUIPO also pointed out that the individual elements in short trademarks were more readily discernible by consumers than in longer trademarks. So although both trademarks began with C&, the overall impression made by each was different due to the addition of A and J respectively.
And while EUIPO acknowledged that the C&A trademark has acquired a high degree of distinctiveness in Europe in relation to clothing, it didn’t think consumers would believe that C&A and C&J referred to the same company or to companies that were commercially linked.
Closer to home
Taking on C&J was consequently a bridge too far for C&A. If the chain really wants to flex its muscles, it will need to look closer to home. As it did in 2011, when it successfully sued a company which was using the trademark G&A. That’s a lot closer to C&A than C&J, after all.