IEF 20124

Ruim omschreven merkdepot is niet zomaar te kwader trouw

Court of Appeal (UK) 26 juli 2021, IEF 20124; A3/2020/1374 (Sky tegen Skykick)  Het Britse bedrijf Sky is merkhouder van Uniemerken met betrekking tot televisie-uitzendingen, telecom en meer. Deze merken zijn ook ingeschreven in het Verenigd Koninkrijk als nationale woordmerken. Sky heeft een vordering wegens inbreuk op de merken ingesteld tegen SkyKick, een Amerikaanse onderneming die zich voornamelijk bezighoudt met het aanbieden van cloud-services. SkyKick heeft aangevoerd dat de ingeroepen merken geheel of gedeeltelijk nietig zijn. Het Britse Court of Appeal oordeelt nu in deze zaak ook over de vraag wanneer een merkdepot te kwader trouw gedaan is. Sir Christopher Floyd is van mening dat het ontbreken van een commerciële reden of strategie niet relevant is voor de vraag of er sprake is van kwade trouw. Een ruime merkbeschrijving is begrijpelijk, zo zegt hij, en het afdekken van nog niet omschreven waren binnen dezelfde categorie levert geen kwade trouw op. Skykick had beter moeten motiveren waarom er sprake is van kwade trouw aan de zijde van Sky. 

116. An applicant for a trade mark does not have to formulate a commercial strategy for using the mark in relation to every species of goods or services falling within a general description. Such an applicant is entitled to say “I am using the mark for specific goods falling within description X. I have no idea precisely where my business in goods of that description will develop in the next 5 years, but there will undoubtedly be more such goods than there are now.” Such an applicant would always be forced to accept that there was no prospect whatsoever that it would use the mark for every variety of goods within the description. Such an applicant could not, however, be accused of bad faith in the light of its strategy for applying for protection of sufficient width to cover some further, as yet unformulated, goods within the same category. For this reason, I consider that the concession (see [102] above) that an applicant with but one item of computer software can apply in good faith for computer software as a whole to have been correctly made. It follows that the absence of a commercial rationale or strategy, if by that is meant a plan under which the mark is to be used for all goods or services within a category of the registration, is not relevant to the enquiry about bad faith.

117. In that connection it is worth noting that although the Court in Sky CJEU referred at [77] to an absence of a rationale, it was to the absence of a rationale “for the application for registration in the light of the aims of [the Regulation]”. Such an absence of rationale might be demonstrated by a strategy of the kind owned up to in Hasbro, where the sole purpose was to circumvent the non-use provisions in the regulation. That is something quite different from an absence of a commercial strategy to use the mark, let alone the absence of a commercial strategy to use the mark for all the goods and services within a given descriptive term. The strategy I have described in the previous paragraph is fully in accordance with the aims of the Regulation.