October 07, 2004

Geographical names still for the first come?

federalrepublicofgermany.biz has been transferred to the Federal Republic of Germany. Anyhow I keep thinking geographical names are not like trademarks, and can be registered by individuals, not necessarily by the entities bearing the same name.
Here is the relevant part of the case, likening the (English) name of the State and a trademark:
The first issue which the Panel has to consider is whether “federalrepublicofgermany” would enjoy protection under German trademark law.
In this respect the Panel notes that Article 4, Paragraph 2 of the German Trademark Act prescribes that trademark protection shall accrue: “through the use of a sign in the course of trade insofar as the sign has acquired a secondary meaning as a trademark within the affected trade circles.”
In its considerations concerning this issue the Panel notes that obviously the name Federal Republic of Germany is well known in Germany as indicating the “Bundesrepublik Deutschland” and that the name has a particularly distinctive character and thus is a sign to which trademark protection may apply. Such protection presupposes that the sign at issue has acquired a secondary meaning as a trademark in the course of trade. In this respect Complainant contends that the Federal Republic renders a variety of services, inter alia public information, under this name on, for instance, the Internet and that websites related to the Federal Government offer comprehensive information in several areas related to the activities of the Government.
In considering these aspects, the Panel comes to the conclusion that those activities are a form of trade of services directed to the German people and others who seek information about, inter alia, various government services. The Panel finds that the circumstances present in the case indicate that “federalrepublicofgermany” has acquired a secondary meaning as a service mark.
The Panel consequently finds it to be established, for the purposes of this dispute, that “federalrepublicofgermany” enjoys trademark protection under Article 4, Paragraph 2, of the German Trademark Act.

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