By its judgment of 15 January 2015, T‑197/13 (full text in French here) the General Court of the European Union rejected the opposition against the decision of the OHIM Fourth Board of Appeal of 29 January 2013 (Case R 113/2012 4), refusing the international registration (designating the EC) of the word mark MONACO, for lack of distinctive character. The decision confirms the previous ruling in Windsurfing Chiemsee (C-108/97) and Cloppenburg (T‑379/03): there is a general interest in keeping geographical names free from any exclusive appropriation as trademarks, provided that they have the ability to reveal products or services’ qualities and other characteristics and to influence consumer preferences by associating them with a geographical place which can elicit positive feelings. On this basis, Article 7(1)(b) and (c) Reg. No. 207/2009 on the Community trade mark should preclude the registration of geographical names which designate geographical locations, already famous or known for the category of goods or services in question, and which, therefore, have a meaningful connection with them. In these circumstances, the word ‘Monaco’ was supposed to designate, in the eyes of the public, the geographical origin of the category of services at issue and must remain available to other undertakings’ free and non-exclusive use. Another step forwards the recognition and safeguarding of a public domain’s space in trademark law.
General Court (Grand Chamber), 15 January 2015, T‑197/13, Marques de l’État de Monaco (MEM) v. OHIM