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No to Niagra

Written by Michael Coyle on 30 April 2016

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Under Article 7(1)(c) of Regulation No 207/2009, ‘trade marks which consist exclusively of signs or indications which may serve, in trade, to designate the kind, quality, quantity, intended purpose, value, geographical origin or the time of production of the goods or of rendering of the service, or other characteristics of the goods or service’ may not be registered. As regards more specifically signs or indications that may serve to designate the geographical origin or destination of the categories of goods, or the place of performance of the categories of services, in respect of which the protection of an international registration designating the European Union is sought, especially geographical names, it is in the public interest that they remain available, not least because they may be an indication of the quality and other characteristics of the categories of goods or services concerned, and may also, in various ways, influence consumer preferences by, for instance, associating the goods or services with a place that may evoke positive feelings.

The first association that springs to mind in connection with the word ‘niagara’ is water, and this, above all, because of the famous waterfall with the same name. The fact that the Niagara Falls evoke numerous variations of association, in particular, abundance of water, the dangers that such abundance could cause, or yet a picturesque image worthy of a postcard, is irrelevant inasmuch as, for all these associations, water remains an essential common feature.

Thus, the word ‘niagara’ has, in the eyes of the relevant public, a link with the goods covered by the mark applied for and is capable, in the eyes of that public, of designating the geographical origin of those goods.

The proposed mark was therefore rejected.

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