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Descriptive Trademarks in Foreign Languages

Published: Friday, March 24, 2023

When  we  talk  about  descriptive trademarks,  we  refer  to  those  signs  that  are  exclusively made  up  of  denominations  that  directly  inform the  consumer  about  one  or  several  of  the  essential characteristics  of  the  products  or  services  that  they  distinguish. Paragraph  e)  of  article  135  of  Decision 486  prohibits  the  registration  of  this  type  of  sign  because  such  denominations  are  necessary  for  the  identification  and  publicity  in  the  market of  the  products or  services  they  distinguish;  therefore, an  exclusive  right  cannot  be  granted  on  them  since  it  would  affect  the  interest  and  the  right  of  other  competitors.  Consequently, they  must  remain in  the  public domain.  In  this  regard,  the  Andean  Court  has  established that  "one  of  the  methods to  determine  whether a  sign  is  descriptive  is  to  ask  the  question of  ‘how’  the  product  is  to  be  registered, so  that  if  the  answer spontaneously  provided  –  for  example, by  an  average consumer  –  is  equal  to  the  designation of  that  product, there  will  be  place  to  establish  the  descriptive  nature of  the  denomination”.[1]

On  the  other  hand,  in  relation  to  trademarks  consisting of  names  in  a  foreign language,  as  established by  the  Andean Court,  words  that  are  not  part  of  the  common knowledge  are  considered fantasy  signs,  and  consequently  their  registration  as  trademarks  is  appropriate.[2] Likewise,  in  order  to  determine when  a  denomination in  a  foreign language  is  common knowledge,  the  same  Court  has  established,  among  others,  the  following  cases:

-                  When  it  is  commonly used  in  connection with  the  products or  services  to  be  identified.

-                  When  it  shares  a  common  root  or  phonetic similarity  with  its  Spanish  translation.

And  it  is  here  where  a  question arises,  what  rules  apply  in  the  case  of  signs  consisting  of  foreign  language names  that  are  also  descriptive? To  solve  this  question,  we  can  cite  a  real  case,  referring to  the  application for  registration  of  the  trademark Small  Rig  to  identify  products in  class  09  of  the  International  Classification  [3].  In  the  first  instance,  the  Directorate  of  Distinctive  Signs  of  Indecopi, by  means  of  Resolution  No.  0062-2020/DSD-INDECOPI,  refused ex  officio  the  registration  of  said  sign  on  considering that  it  was  subject  to  the  prohibition of  registration  established in  paragraph  e)  of  article 135  of  Decision486, considering  the  following:

"In  effect,  the  sign  applied for  registration  is  made  up  of  the  term  Small  Rig,  which  in  its  translation  into  Spanish  means  SMALLEQUIPMENT  [4],  which  refers  to  the  accessories that  are  used  with  the  products  that  are  intended to  distinguish  with  the  sign  applied  for,  in  turn,  the  referred term  is  known  in  the  market  as  that  accessory that  is  used  as  a  support  for  cameras".

The  holder  filed  an  appeal in  which  he  pointed  out,  among  others, the  following  arguments:

-                  That  the  term  Rig  was  not  a  root  and  bears  no  similarity to  its  Spanish translation,  which  would  be  EQUIPO.

-                  That  after  a  search for  said  term  in  web  pages  of  different  stores specialized  in  the  sale  of  products  of  class  09,  no  results were  found.

Then,  by  Resolution No.  2046-2020/CSD-INDECOPI,  the  appeal  was  declared  well  founded,  stating that  indeed  the  translation  of  the  term  in  English Rig  would  not  be  likely to  be  understood by  the  consumer public  because  it  has  no  common  root,  nor  phonetic similarity  with  its  translation  into  Spanish,  nor  was  it  a  term  frequently  used  in  the  Peruvian  market, and  so  it  will  be  perceived  as  a  fantasy sign.

What  we  notice in  this  case  is  that  the  first  instance  of  INDECOPI  analyzed the  sign  in  question  based  on  the  rule  of  descriptive  signs, which  was  later  corrected  by  the  second instance  by  applying the  rule  of  signs  with  a  denomination in  a  foreign language,  a  methodology that  is  much  more  appropriate in  these  cases, because  although  the  translation  into  Spanish  of  a  foreign language  denomination  may  be  descriptive, if  it  is  not  part  of  the  common  knowledge, it  would  not  be  informing about  the  characteristics  of  the  identified product  or  service, and  it  would  not  be  used  by  the  consumer in  a  spontaneous way  to  designate them,  and  so  it  must  be  considered as  a  fantasy denomination  that  is  subject  to  an  exclusive right.

[1]  Pre-judicial Interpretations  27-IP-2001  and  336-IP-2015

[2]  Pre-judicial Interpretations  73-IP-2021

[3]  Class 09:  Stands  adapted for  cell  phones; cell  phone  cases; telepointers;  extendable  arms  for  selfie sticks  [handheld  monopods]; lens  hoods  for  photographic  lenses; bags  for  cameras and  photographic  equipment; special  cases  for  photographic  apparatus and  instruments;  camera cases;  camera  tripods; tripods  for  cameras; chargers  for  electric accumulators;  cords  for  cellular  telephones; cases  for  photographic apparatus;  smartphones;  special bags  for  laptops; shutters  [photography];  feet  for  photographic apparatus;  photographic  viewfinders; cases  for  smartphones; computer  peripherals;  USB  memory  sticks


Author:  Kelly Sánchez –  IP  Lawyer 

Law firm:  OMC  Abogados &  Consultores

Oscar Mago
OMC Abogados
Practice Area:
Phone Number:
(511) 5026467
Mr. Mago is the founding partner and CEO of the Law Firm OMC Abogados & Consultores He has more than 30 years of experience in the field of Intellectual Property Law. He is responsible for the management of the IP department where he provides his experience in Trademarks and Patents applications, oppositions, advice for cases of unfair competition and infringement actions, copyright, industrial design, among others. Likewise, Mr. Mago is a member of an extensive network of professional contacts among which we can mention the International Trademark Association (INTA), Inter American Intellectual Property Association (ASIPI), ECTA ( European Communities Trade Mark Association ), Associação Brasileira da Propriedade Intelectual (ABPI), Associação Paulista De Propriedade Intelectual (ASPI) and MARQUES. His professional labor has been recognized many times in the rankings specialized of IP such as Chambers and Partners, IP Stars, Managing IP, Leader League and The Best Lawyers.  Some comments on your professional performance:  "Always in a good mood and ready to give clients the best advice", proactive and hands-on Oscar Mago leads the all-encompassing IP practice, taking charge of all trademark matters at the Lima office. "A brilliant IP attorney with profound knowledge of the law, Mago is extremely responsive and always seeks to provide the best results for clients at truly cost-effectiveprices" (WTR 1000 Ranking 2021: Intellectual Property) Oscar Mago is co-head of department and market specialists consider that he is "very assertive and quick in his answers." Other interviewees deem him to be "very professional and very responsible when working; he considers us a priority." (LatinChambers 2021: Intellectual Property).

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