Court of Justice of the European Union: The General Court comprising of A.M. Collins, President, M. Kancheva (Rapporteur) and J. Passer, JJ. allowed the name of a place to be used as a trademark in order to promote the town as a tourist destination.
Devin in Bulgaria was known by its spa town not only to the people of Bulgaria but also to the neighboring countries. Its name was also linked with mineral water which covered this contested mark. The plea here consisted of two parts, the first relating to the degree of recognition by the relevant public of the word ‘Devin’ as a geographical name, and the second relating to the link between the contested mark and mineral water.
The applicant contended that being a touristically viable place does not warrant or wholly suffice that the customers beyond borders having a knowledge about it will eventually relate the goods with the place. Also relevant foreign public only knows the main attractions in Bulgaria and Devin was not one of them as its reputation confines itself only to its waters. It was to be considered that an average consumer of mineral water in the EU does not have a high degree of specialization in geography or tourism and there was no evidence to corroborate the fact that such a consumer identifies the word ‘Devin’ as a geographical place in Bulgaria.
The Court was of the view that for the general interest, the trademark could be allowed but with a caveat that by means of safeguard the exclusive right of the applicant for the contested mark shall be limited as it was a necessary balance between the rights of the proprietors and the interests of third parties which allows the registration of trademarks. Accordingly, the descriptive use of the name ‘Devin’ was permitted.[Devin AD v. EUIPO, T-122 of 17, dated 25-10-2018]