November 2017. TCL Communications, the company behind telecoms brand Alcatel, has been refused an EU registration for its blue ‘A’ logo after the Board of Appeal of the EU trademark agency EUIPO concluded it was not sufficiently distinctive.

Left: the separate blue A logo that was refused

Simple shapes

It’s hardly surprising the logo was rejected, since simple geometric shapes are often regarded as insufficiently distinctive, even if a colour is added to them.

Design would be better

Instead of applying for a trademark registration, TCL would have done better to apply for a European design registration since this kind of simple images can often be registered as a design without much difficulty. This is because design law doesn’t apply the strict requirement of distinctiveness. As long as the design is new and has an individual character, it can be registered in Europe. This is one way in which quite basic shapes, which would have difficulty in being registered under trademark law, can nevertheless be protected as a design.

Four examples of shapes registered as designs which might not qualify for protection as trademarks.

Not new

So could TCL still apply to have the logo registered as a design? Unfortunately not, since because the A was publicised some time ago, the design is no longer new. Which means it can no longer be protected as a design.

Bas Kist