28 May 2015


Earlier this month, the German Federal Supreme Court (BGH) decided that the right to free speech and artistic expression have their limitations.

The Court ordered the defendant to consent to the cancellation of their trademark registration for "PUDEL" and device. "Pudel" is German for "poodle" and the registered mark clearly parodied the claimant's well-known "PUMA" mark.

PUMA is a well-known manufacturer of sportswear and footwear. The defendant had registered and used its PUDEL mark for both types of goods. The Court held that while there was no danger of confusing the two marks, the PUDEL mark infringed on the broader protection the PUMA mark enjoyed by virtue of its reputation. The Court gave precedence to the claimant's intellectual property rights over the freedom of expression defence argued by the defendant. The Court held that such rights do not justify the grant of a property right if that right interferes with an earlier property right.

With recent changes to the copyright laws in the UK concerning parody and the CHEWY VUITON decision in the US it will be interesting to see it the Courts here adopt a similar approach.

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