France is not a trademark
Although the term “France” is evocative of many wonderful things, it cannot be used as a trademark as evidenced by a dispute over the use of the mark “france.com”.
In 2014, a French-American company filed a trademark application in the European Union for “france.com” combined with a logo representing a white stylized Eiffel Tower on a blue and red background. France immediately lodged an opposition, availing itself of a Union trademark – registered in 2010 – entitled “France” and also accompanied by a stylized Eiffel Tower, with a large tricolor scarf floating at mid-height.
By a decision rendered on June 26, 2018, the General Court of the European Union considers that it is not possible to register the trademark “france.com” in the European Union, its characteristics resembling another sign previously registered by France.
To characterise this resemblance, the Court makes a comparison between the two trademarks, taking into account their distinctive visual, phonetic and conceptual elements.
This comparison shows that the signs at issue are almost identical.
It can indeed be assumed that many consumers will refer to the sign of the company France.com by the term “France” only. The term “.com” cannot be perceived as a constituent element of the mark making it possible to distinguish between the two signs.
In addition, the signs at issue are conceptually similar, since they convey the same concept (i.e. France, the Eiffel Tower and the colours of the tricolor flag).
Finally, the Court considers that “the signs in question are almost phonetically identical”.
Therefore, “in view of the fact that the signs at issue cover identical or similar services and have a particularly high degree of phonetic and conceptual similarity, the Court concludes that there is a likelihood of confusion”. France can therefore validly oppose the registration of the sign “france.com”.
If in doubt about the sign of your trademark, it is better to contact an expert.
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Anne DESMOUSSEAUX, Founding Partner, Lawyer, European Trademark & Design Representative