May 2018. Red Bull has chalked up a gratifying victory in Turkey. As the energy drink giant battles to protect its silver and blue colour combination in Europe, its Turkish arm has managed to stop a rival piggy-backing on its well-known colours.
When in 2016 a Turkish company applied to register the Ibex device mark for non-alcoholic beverages, Red Bull filed an opposition based on its own registrations shown below. Red Bull argued that consumers could confuse the two brands, largely because the same colours were being used, and that Ibex was therefore undermining the reputation of the globally well known Red Bull trademark.
The trademark registrations under which Red Bull has appealed
The Board of Appeal of the Turkish Patent and Trademark Office has now agreed that there is a risk of confusion and that Ibex is unlawfully profiting from Red Bull’s reputation. Ibex has therefore been ordered to remove all products with any link to (soft) drinks from its application. Products not related to non-alcoholic beverages remain unaffected.
Colour mark under pressure
So it seems Red Bull can continue to protect its colour-combination trademark in Turkey on the strength of the colour combination registration (shown left). In the EU, by contrast, trademark protection for colour combinations has been rendered almost impossible by the European Courts. Recently, for example, the European General Court declared Red Bull’s silver and blue colour combination invalid on technical grounds.
The use of colour by IKEA, Shell and Nuon clearly fulfill a trademark role
This is an unwelcome development. After all, there’s no doubt that colour combinations can fulfil a very clear trademark role. Think of IKEA, Shell, Nuon (a Dutch well known energy company) and (not least) Red Bull, to name but a few. These types of trademarks should be protected, and the EU is failing companies by denying them the rightful protection of their colour combination marks.