Riga City Vidzeme District Court by the judgment of 10 December 2015 has settled the dispute on trade marks BRŪŽA and BRŪŽA LEĢENDA between two biggest Latvian competing breweries, JSC ALDARIS and JSC CĒSU ALUS.
Namely, in February 2015 CĒSU ALUS filed a lawsuit against ALDARIS for invalidation of a trade mark registration and cease of trademark infringement. In fact, the dispute focused on the trademark BRŪŽA LEĢENDA (reg. No. M 68 498) registered and used by ALDARIS, which was challenged by CĒSU ALUS on the basis on their earlier trademark BRŪŽA (reg. No. M 68 403).
The applicant considered that the two marks are confusingly similar and there is a likelihood of confusion, noting that CĒSU ALUS as the owner of the earlier trademark is only who is entitled to use the designation BRŪŽA. Additionally, the applicant also considered that in view of considerable financial and marketing investments in creation, development and promotion of BRŪŽA brand, the defendant knowingly acted in bad faith when applying for the registration and use of the mark BRŪŽA LEĢENDA and such action, among others, must be regarded as unfair competition. Illegal use of the mark was based on the visual, aural and semantic similarity of the marks, identity of goods (beer), as well as on bad faith of ALDARIS when applying its mark on the ground that each merchant must ascertain whether the other operators do not already have applied for registration of identical or similar trademark. Of course, the defendant did not agree on similarity between the marks, pointing out the visual, phonetic and semantic differences, as well as categorically rejected the bad faith on the ground specified by the applicant by denying such obligation as not provided by the law.
To protect his lawful interests, ALDARIS filed a counterclaim against CĒSU ALUS for invalidation of the registration of the trademark BRŪŽA (reg. No. M 68 403), considering that this sign lacks distinctive character being a clearly descriptive term of general nature (the term “brūža” means a „brewery” in old-fashioned Latvian language), and, therefore, was registered a trademark contrary to the rules set by the Law on Trademarks. This view was based on, first, the fact that the word in question and its folds are widely used nowadays in beer industry both colloquially and in countless publications in the mass media and all customers and society as a whole clearly understands the meaning, which is directly related to beer (i.e., meaning a “brewery” in Latvian). In addition, ALDARIS held that CĒSU ALUS, being active member of a beer market for a long time, can not be unaware that acquiring of exclusive rights to the sign BRŪŽA would give unfair advantage in the sense of obtaining exclusive rights on the word being widely used in industry, and would be contrary to honest business practices and bona fide principle (exploitation of rights in good faith), thus showing exactly CĒSU ALUS has applied for his trademark in bad faith taking into account also subsequent court proceedings against ALDARIS, being a biggest local competitor in the market.
Riga City Vidzeme District Court, having examined the case, evaluating the evidence filed by the parties and having heard the argumentation of the representatives of both parties has decided to reject in full the claim filed by CĒSU ALUS and to satisfy the counterclaim filed by ALDARIS. The Court in its judgment, basing on the evidence submitted, agreed with ALDARIS view and concluded that the word “brūzis” and its fold “brūža” is widely used in modern society as a synonym for the designation “brewery”, and did not found any evidence supporting the point of view of CĒSU ALUS that this word is regarded as a vocabulary and obsolete (old-fashioned language) term and therefore having at least some degree of distinctiveness, recognizing that the term “brūža” does not allow to identificate an individual beer producers and cannot serve for the main purpose of a trademark. Thus, the Court has held that the trademark BRŪŽA, reg. No. M 68 403, should be is invalidated on the basis of the provisions of Articles 6(2), 6(3) and 6(4) of the Law on Trademarks.
Taking into account that the earlier mark, on which the action was based, was considered to be invalid, the Court dismissed the action brought for trade mark infringement as unfounded in view of lack of earlier rights.
ALDARIS was successfully represented in this dispute by Mr. Bronislavs Baltrumovics, Trademark Attorney & Senior Lawyer of Agency TRIA ROBIT.