Archive: Puma vs. Poodle

On April 2, 2015, an end was put in a dispute between the world-renowned German sportswear manufacturer and the Hamburg-based clothing designer, which had dragged on for several years.

The plaintiff, who is the owner of a well-known trademark  in Germany, registered back in 1991 and used for marking sportswear, requested the cancellation of the trademark , which was registered in Germany in 2006 for clothing and, in particular, for T-shirts.

The German Federal Court, agreeing with the first instance and the appeals instance, ruled that a trademark that is a parody of another's trademark, which is generally known in Germany, should be canceled.

In its decision, the German Federal Court of Justice relied on the fact that the compared trademarks have some similarity, however, this similarity is not strong enough to cause confusion in the way it’s meant in Section 9 (1) No. 2 of the German Trademark Act. Nevertheless, the similarity of the trademarks was assessed as sufficient for the application of Section 9 (1) No. 3 of the said normative legal act, since it is precisely due to such similarity that the defendant unfairly uses the distinctiveness and reputation of the plaintiff's well-known trademark, receives a certain benefit in this regard and achieves a level of attention from consumers that would not be obtained from using their own brands.

Thus, the plaintiff's claim to cancel the contested trademark was recognized as justified, since the degree of its similarity with the plaintiff's trademark creates associations between the two trademarks among consumers.

The defendant's arguments that, according to the German Basic Law, he has the rights to freedom of creation and expression, and his trademark is a parody of the plaintiff's trademark, were not taken into account. The judges stressed that the protection of the trademark right is guaranteed by the Basic Law of Germany and in this case is a priority.