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Another victory in the Supreme Court

May 30, 2016

On 25th May, 2016 the Department of Civil Cases of the Supreme Court has given the judgment in the case Nr. C04195412 (PAC-0060/2016) regarding the complaint brought by Dutch company GNT Group B.V. (GNT Beeher B.V. / GNT International B.V) against SIA “NutriFood Ingredients” on the termination of illegal use of trademark and transfer of rights for the domain name. The case reached the Supreme Court under appeal after it has been considered by the Collegium of Civil Cases of the Regional Court of Riga.

Namely, on 8 February 2012 the Dutch company GNT Beeher B.V. (the former name is GNT International BV) brought an action against SIA “NutriFood Ingredients” for termination of the illegal use of the Community (EU) trademark CTM 000698340 and transfer of rights for the domain name “nutrifood.eu”, obliging the defendant to change the name of the company and transfer the rights for the domain name to the applicant. The claim has been based on the fact that the part of defendant’s company name must be interpreted as confusingly similar to the Community (EU) trademark of the applicant, which is registered in relation to food additives. At the same time, the defendant is engaged in trade of food components (ingredients), and the respective domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith in order to gain commercial benefit from the trademark of the applicant, as well as from the recognition of products in the market produced by the applicant.

On 15th February, 2013 the collegium of the Regional Court of Riga with its judgment satisfied the action brought; however, the defendant has lodged the appeal against this decision. The Department of Civil Cases of the Supreme Court, having listened to the submissions of the case of the parties at the hearing and examining the evidence, acknowledged that the claim is groundless and should, therefore, be declined. 

The Court of Appeal found that Community (EU) trademark of the applicant has been registered and is being used in relation to the concrete and specific food additives, which are not present in the offered product range of the defendant, as well as found no basis for believing that the trademark of the applicant would be recognized as a well-known in Latvia. The Court also indicated that the materials of the case do not determine that the defendant had use its company name in relation to goods, placing on the market exactly the same food additives, in respect of which the trademark of the applicant is registered, or similar food additives; and, referring to the case-law of the Court of Justice of the European Union, the court considered that the use of the company name without putting it on the specific goods cannot be considered to be use in respect of the goods of the Law on Trademarks and Indications of Geographical Origin, especially taking into account the relevant consumers (experts in food industry). As a result, the Department of Civil Cases has acknowledged that there is no reason to believe that the relevant consumers may be misled by the origin of the goods and perceive the company name of the defendant as a link between the defendant's goods and the applicant's trademark and its owner. Consequently, the essential function of the trade mark could not be adversely affected or jeopardized. In view of this, the court of appeal also concluded that there is no reason to believe that the contested domain name is registered in bad faith, and indicated that the applicant has not exercised his rights to obtain the corresponding domain name. The court also stated that under these circumstances the further bringing of the action does not demonstrate the honest use of the rights by the applicant.

When reviewing the judgment of the court of first instance, the Department of Civil Cases indicated that the court of first instance wrongly did not evaluated the scope legal protection of the applicant's trademark and failed to assess the evidence submitted by the parties in accordance with Section 97 of the Civil Procedure Law. Moreover, it violated the limits of the claim, resulting in making groundless conclusions about the existence of the trademark infringement.

The interests of the defendant SIA “NutriFood Ingredients” in this legal proceeding were successfully represented by Bronislavs Baltrumovics,  a senior lawyer and a professional trademark attorney of Agency TRIA ROBIT in cooperation with Ruta Olmane, a professional Latvian and European trademark and design attorney from OLMANE LAW FIRM.

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