May 2018. European fashion chain WE has failed to stop the Spanish department store group El Corte Ingles from registering its clothing brand EW as a European trademark. In a ruling dated 4 May, the European General Court concluded that the trademarks WE and EW weren’t sufficiently similar and therefore presented no risk of confusion.

WE’s word mark (right) took issue with El Corte Ingles’ logo (centre)

Short trademarks: easier to differentiate

The Board of Appeal initially upheld WE’s opposition and refused El Corte Ingles’ European registration, but the Spanish company has now won at appeal. The Court has decided that the word mark WE and the logo EW aren’t sufficiently similar after all, and that very short trademarks are easier for consumers to differentiate. Moreover, it concluded, the E and the W in the El Corte Ingles trademark were visually linked and the pronunciation of WE and EW was also different.

In 2000, WE even managed to use its trademark rights to stop a TV channel from registering the name ME in the Netherlands


The Appeal Board’s ruling is a painful defeat for WE group, which was always previously successful in defending its WE trademark in the Netherlands. Many years ago, WE even managed to stop a TV channel from using the name ME, despite it being a different trademark operating in a different sector. Back then, the court ruled that ME had infringed WE’s trademark rights, and the channel was forced to change its name to Yorin.

Bas Kist