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Once upon a time in Trade Mark Law....

Written by Jean-Michel Omanga on 11 February 2011

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Background

Neuschwanstein is a German castle widely known worldwide. There is a trade mark quarrel about the castle. The quarrel is between the Bavarian Castle Department and the German Federal association Bundesverband Souvenir Geschenke Ehrenpreise e. V. (BSGE).

The Bavarian Castle Department is an entity of the regional Bavarian state which has trademarked the "Neuschwanstein" name. Giving its agreement for the different merchandising related to the Neuschwantein is its main task. The Bavarian Castle Departments job is to verify quality of the Neuschwanstein souvenir industry, their goal is the protection of the castle.

The BSGE is an association that defends the interests of all the different jobs related of the souvenirs industry.

For the BSGE the Neuschwanstein can't be trade marked because the castle is not a brand but an important public site. Is the Neuschwanstein word a non-distinctive term?

According to them, the fact that they are forced to ask licences for their Neuschwanstein castle related products means that the Bavarian Castle Department is a board of censors. For the Bavarian Castle Department the licensing it is explain by the need of protecting the castle from saturation of the market and low quality products which would be prejudicial for the castle.

Held

The Court declared the mark invalid. According to the Court Neuschwanstein word is a non-distinctive term.

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