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Coca-Cola Tm EU

EU smashes Coca-Cola bottle design trademark attempt judging that it is not distinctive enough


By John McCarthy, Opinion Editor

February 24, 2016 | 3 min read

Coca-Cola’s attempt to have the EU enforce a trademark on the new version of its bottles has been dismissed.

The soft-drink giant argued that the curvature and design of its new bottles was reminiscent of the company’s iconic glass entries. The Luxembourg court argued the design was not distinctive enough.

The company filed to the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market OHIM which handles trademarks and designs, in an attempt to protect the new design of its metallic, glass and plastic bottles.

The court claimed that the bottle does not possess any characteristics that distinguish it from other bottles available on the market. The mark sought is thus a mere variant of the shape of a bottle.

Iain Connor, partner at Pinsent Masons, said: “Coca-Cola led the way when it obtained protection for its iconic, curvaceous, fluted contour glass bottle back in 1980. However, in its latest attempt to extend this protection to a less unique bottle shape, Coca-Cola failed to prove that its standard plastic bottle had enough distinctive character.

“Trade marking a shape can be a tricky business. There are numerous factors that can go against a grant, for instance if the shape is borne out of the nature of the product, if it adds substantial value to the product or if it takes on a form that is necessary to obtain a technical result. It’s easy to understand why it’s so important for businesses to try to protect some of their leading products as trade marks because trade mark protection can last forever, but we’ve already seen a number of failed attempts like this recently and I expect that we’ll continue to see a lot more.”

The company late last year premiered its first global campaign, underlining each variant under a single brand. With the company rumoured to be moving away from the distinctive colouring of its Life and Zero variants, the lack of protection afforded to its bottles could prove an issue in distinguishing it from rival sodas.

Coca-Cola can file an appeal to the Court of Justice.

Coca-Cola Tm EU

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