Grounds for opposition according to the European Union Trademark Regulation
Opposition is a legal proceeding in which a third party seeks to prevent a pending application for a trademark from being granted registration. This way, according to Article 8 EUTMR upon opposition by the proprietor of an earlier trade mark, the trade mark applied for shall not be registered. In case of the European Union trademarks, this procedure will take place before the EUIPO.
The grounds on which an opposition may be based are called relative grounds for refusal, which are found in Article 8 EUTMR, and are different to the absolute grounds for refusal from Article 7. The difference between these two kind of grounds is that relative grounds are inter partes proceedings, and concern earlier rights that take precedence over the EU trademark in accordance with the principle of priority. On the other hand, absolute grounds are examined ex-officio by the office during the registration procedure.
Therefore, the onus is on the earlier right owner to be observant and vigilant concerning the filing of applications by others.
The grounds on which an opposition may be made are set out in Article 8 EUTMR.
This article (1)(a) allows the proprietors of an identical or similar prior trademark registered for identical or similar goods or services to request opposition, when there is a likelihood of confusion. These “earlier trademarks” include (1)(b):
- Community trademarks;
- Trademarks registered in a EU member state;
- International trademark registrations that have effect in an EU member state
- Trademarks that are well known in a Member State in the sense of Article 6bis of the Paris Convention (which need not be registered).
The meaning of “earlier trademarks” refers to those having an earlier date (not hour or minute) of application.
An opposition filed on the basis of Article 8(1)(b) must demonstrate that there is likelihood a confusion between both trademarks, and it must be assessed globally, taking into consideration all factor relevant to the circumstances of the case.