February 2019. Anyone who gets too close to a well-known trademark is asking for trouble. Turkish company Pantures discovered that when it applied for an EU trademark registration for its Spaaq logo and ran into opposition from Belgian mineral water giant Spa.

Soft drinks and lavatory paper

When Pantures applied to register Spaaq for soft drinks, beer, toilet paper and paper towels, Spa filed an opposition in 2017. The European Trademark Office EUIPO published its decision on 31 January this year.

Negative impact

EUIPO ruled that Spa had successfully shown that it owned a well-known trademark with a reputation beyond dispute, giving it extensive trademark protection. So extensive, in fact, that it not only easily blocked the registration of the similar-sounding trademark Spaaq for soft drinks and beer, but also for lavatory rolls and paper towels. EUIPO concluded that the use and registration of Spaaq would tarnish the reputed trade mark Spa, as it is likely to have a negative influence on such image of purity. Result: no registration for Spaaq.

Well-known trademarks: be careful

The moral of this tale is that you should be very careful when getting too close to a well-known trademark, even if you are operating in a completely different market. Doing so can be dangerous, even without the risk of confusion. If there’s a potential link between the trademarks and a risk that the image or distinctive capacity of the more famous one could be compromised, that’s enough to constitute an infringement.

Bas Kist