Sul tema del marchio costituito da un disegno ripetuto (pattern), usato come rivestimento esterno (sulla cui disciplina non sempre c’è chiarezza), si pronuncia il tribunale UE con la sentenza 10 giugno 2020, T-105/19, Louis Vuitton Malletier c. Euipo.
Il motivo della stoffa di cui si chiedeva protezione era del tipo scozzese sulle tonalità del giallo e marron (v. foto in sentenza)
I prodotti indicati in domanda appartenevano alla classe 18 (borse, valigie etc.)
Il Tribunale dà alcuni utili insegnamenti. Ricorda ad es. la decisione del Board of Appeal (poi <BoA>; del 22.11.2018, che è la decisione contestata) secondo cui a questi marchi si applicano le regole sui marchi tridimensionali , p. 16.
Inoltre, solo se si distanzia significativamente dalle regole e prassi del settore, può dirsi assolvere la funzione distintiva, p. 17.
Rleva poi che il BoA aveva basato il giudizio sul carattere distintivo (negandolo) su fatto notorio (well-known fact), ritenuto sufficiente dal Tribunale, trattandosi di operaizone logico-giuridica del tutto ammissibile, §§ 19 e 29- 30.
Ecco la descrizione del marchio sub iudice: consisteva <on the one hand, of a regular pattern of squares in two alternating colours, namely blue and beige, as confirmed by the parties during the hearing, which is reminiscent of a chequerboard pattern and, on the other hand, of a weft and warp structure, which constitutes a pattern within a pattern and appears on the inside of the squares in the manner of a weaving method shown by two interlacing threads> , p. 31.
il Tribunale concorda con il BoA sulla ordinarietà del motivo : <the chequerboard pattern is a basic and commonplace figurative pattern, since it is composed of a regular succession of squares of the same size which are differentiated by alternating different colours, one light and one dark, namely blue and beige. The pattern thus does not contain any notable variation in relation to the conventional representation of chequerboards and is the same as the traditional form of such a pattern>, p. 32.
infatti the <weft and warp [trama e ordito] pattern that appears on the inside of each of the chequerboard squares corresponds with the desired visual effect of interlacing two different fabrics, of whatever type they may be (wool, silk, leather, etc.), which is thus customary as regards goods such as those within Class 18>, § 33.
Perciò bene ha statuito il BoA quando ha detto che <the representation of a chequerboard in the alternating colours of blue and beige and the impression of interlacing threads did not, from a graphic point of view, contain any notable variation in relation to the conventional presentation of such goods, so that the relevant public would in fact perceive only a commonplace and everyday pattern>, p. 34, e che <the juxtaposition of two elements that were not in themselves distinctive could not alter the perception of the relevant public as to the absence of distinctive character, ab initio, of the mark at issue as a whole. The juxtaposition of a chequerboard and of a weft and warp pattern does not give rise to any element that significantly diverges from the norm or customs of the sector concerned>, p. 35.
E’ dunque esatto affermare che <contrary to the applicant’s claims, the fact that the mark at issue was a basic and commonplace pattern that did not depart significantly from the norm or customs of the sector concerned was a well-known fact within the meaning of the case-law cited in paragraph 30 above>, p. 36.
Il secondo motivo di ricorso riguarda il profilo probatorio, legato alla difesa di secondary meaning, p. 54 ss
Per accertare il secondary meaning, <the competent authority must carry out an examination by reference to the actual situation and make an overall assessment of the evidence that the mark has come to identify the goods or services concerned as originating from a particular undertaking (…) . In that regard, account must be taken, inter alia, of the market share held by the mark, how intensive, geographically widespread and long-standing use of the mark has been, the amount invested by the undertaking in promoting the mark, the proportion of the relevant class of persons who, because of the mark, identify the product as originating from a particular undertaking, statements from chambers of commerce and industry or other professional associations as well as opinion polls (…)>, §§ 62-63.
Inoltre, in base al carattere unitario del marchio EU, <a sign must have distinctive character, inherent or acquired through use, throughout the European Union (…) . Thus a sign may be registered as a European Union trade mark under Article 7(3) of Regulation 2017/1001 only if evidence is provided that it has acquired, through the use which has been made of it, distinctive character in the part of the European Union in which it did not, ab initio, have such character for the purposes of Article 7(1)(b). It follows that, with regard to a mark that is, ab initio, devoid of distinctive character across all Member States, such a mark can be registered pursuant to that provision only if it is proved that it has acquired distinctive character through use throughout the territory of the European Union (see, to that effect, judgment of 25 July 2018, Société des produits Nestlé and Others v Mondelez UK Holdings & Services, C‑84/17 P, C‑85/17 P and C‑95/17 P, EU:C:2018:596, paragraphs 75 and 76 and the case-law cited).> p. 65-66
Anche se il secondary meaning deve provato in tutti gli Stati in cui non c’è era ab initio, sarebbe irragionevole <to require proof of such acquisition for each individual Member State (judgment of 24 May 2012, Chocoladefabriken Lindt & Sprüngli v OHIM, C‑98/11 P, EU:C:2012:307, paragraph 62).>, p. 67
Una cosa sono i fatti da provare, altra cosa sono i mezzi adottati a questo scopo: <No provision of Regulation 2017/1001 requires that the acquisition of distinctive character through use be established by separate evidence in each individual Member State> p. 68.
Ci avviciniamo al punto più importante, almeno a fini pratici. E’ dunque possible che le prove dedotte <to establish that a particular sign has acquired distinctive character through use is relevant with regard to several Member States, or even to the whole of the European Union. In particular, it is possible that, for certain goods or services, the economic operators have grouped several Member States together in the same distribution network and have treated those Member States, especially for marketing strategy purposes, as if they were one and the same national market. In such circumstances, the evidence for the use of a sign within such a cross-border market is likely to be relevant for all of the Member States concerned. The same is true when, due to a geographic, cultural or linguistic proximity between two Member States, the relevant public of the first has a sufficient knowledge of the products and services that are present on the national market of the second> p. 69.
Ne segue che, sebbene non sia necessario a fini di registrazione di un marchio privo di distintività in tutti gli stati UE, <that evidence be submitted, in respect of each individual Member State, of the acquisition by that mark of distinctive character through use, the evidence submitted must be capable of establishing such acquisition throughout the Member States of the European Union. In the case of a mark that does not have inherent distinctive character throughout the European Union, the distinctive character acquired through use of that mark must be shown throughout that territory, and not only in a substantial part or the majority of the territory of the European Union, and consequently, although such proof may be produced globally for all the Member States concerned or separately for different Member States or groups of Member States, it is not, however, sufficient that the party with the burden of providing such evidence merely produces evidence of such acquisition that does not cover part of the European Union, even a part consisting of only one Member State >, p. 70.
A conferma di ciò il Trib. ricorda giurisprudenza della CG , per la quale <although it must be proved that the mark at issue has acquired distinctive character throughout the European Union, the same types of evidence do not have to be provided in respect of each Member State (see judgment of 28 October 2009, Combination of the colours green and yellow, T‑137/08, EU:T:2009:417, paragraph 39 and the case-law cited)>, p. 71.
In breve, se ne traggono due insegnamenti:
1) la prova del significato secodnario deve essere data per tutti gli Stati, non solo per una parte sostanziale della UE;
2) la prova può essere cumulativa nel senso che un medesimo mezzo di prova può riguardare più Stati.
Segue poi un dettagliato esame delle 68 prove (exhibits) , utile a fini pratici.
Il Tribunale , però, qui censura il BoA per aver irrazionalmente selezionato solo alcuni materiali probatori, relativi solo ad alcuni Stati (§§ 81-82 e segg.) e pertanto annnulla la decisione, § 96