Sabel BV v Puma AG, Rudolf Dassler Sport: ECJ 11 Nov 1997

The test of whether a sign is confusing is how the use of the sign would be perceived by the average consumer of the type of goods in question. ‘The likelihood of confusion must therefore be appreciated globally, taking into account all factors relevant to the circumstances of the case. That global appreciation of the visual, aural or conceptual similarity or the marks in question, must be based on the overall impression given by the marks, bearing in mind, in particular, their distinctive and dominant components . . The average consumer normally perceives a mark as a whole and does not proceed to analyse its various details.’ (A point noted by the Hearing Officer as I have said). ‘In that perspective, the more distinctive the earlier mark, the greater will be the likelihood of confusion. It is therefore not impossible that the conceptual similarity resulting from the fact that two marks use images with analogous semantic content may give rise to a likelihood of confusion where the earlier mark has a particularly distinctive character, either per se or because of the reputation it enjoys with the public.’
The court set out three possible links between a mark and a sign: ‘(1) where the public confuses the sign and the mark in question (likelihood of direct confusion); (2) where the public makes a connection between the proprietors of the sign and those of the mark and confuses them (likelihood of indirect confusion or association); (3) where the public considers the sign to be similar to the mark and perception of the sign calls to mind the memory of the mark, although the two are not confused (likelihood of association in the strict sense).’


[1997] ECR I-6191, C-251/95, [1998] RPC 199, [1997] EUECJ C-251/95



Cited by:

CitedRegina v Johnstone HL 22-May-2003
The defendant was convicted under the 1994 Act of producing counterfeit CDs. He argued that the affixing of the name of the artist to the CD was not a trade mark use, and that the prosecution had first to establish a civil offence before his act . .
CitedAssociated Newspapers Limited, Daily Mail and General Trust Plc v Express Newspapers (an Unlimited Company, Incorrectly Sued As Express Newspapers Limited) ChD 11-Jun-2003
The claimants sought to prevent the respondents from starting an evening newspaper entitled ‘THE MAIL’ as an infringement of their registered mark, and as passing off. In turn the defendant challenged the validity of the mark.
Held: The word . .
CitedReed Executive Plc, Reed Solutions Plc v Reed Business Information Ltd, Reed Elsevier (Uk) Ltd, Totaljobs Com Ltd CA 3-Mar-2004
The claimant alleged trade mark infringement by the respondents by the use of a mark in a pop-up advert.
Held: The own-name defence to trade mark infringement is limited. Some confusion may be allowed if overall the competition was not unfair . .
CitedMastercard International Incorporated v Hitachi Credit (Uk) Plc ChD 8-Jul-2004
The claimants challenged award of a trade mark saying they were owners of many marks incorporating the word ‘Master’ associated with credit, and the applicants mark was too similar to its own.
Held: Applying Davidoff, the words can also be . .
CitedMarks and Spencer Plc, Ladbrokes Plc, J Sainsbury Plc, Virgin Enterprises Ltd, British Telecommunications Plc, Telecom Securior Cellular Radio Ltd v One In A Million and Others PatC 28-Nov-1997
The registration of internet domain names which would infringe trade marks and potentially facilitate passing off can be protected summarily by quia timet injunction. The defendants were dealers in domain names and the use of a trade mark in the . .
CitedL’Oreal Sa and others v Bellure NV and others ChD 4-Oct-2006
The claimant alleged that the defendants had been importing copies of their perfumes. The products were not counterfeits, but ‘smell-alikes’. The defendants’ packaging and naming was used to suggest which perfume it resembled.
Held: The . .
CitedEsure Insurance Ltd v Direct Line Insurance Plc ChD 29-Jun-2007
Both companies sold motor insurance products at a distance and used as logos and symbols either a telephone or a computer mouse, in each case on wheels. Direct line claimed the use of the mouse by esure infringed its own trademarks, and resisted . .
CitedNude Brands Ltd v Stella McCartney Ltd and Others ChD 20-Aug-2009
The claimant sought an injunction against the defendants to restrain an alleged trade mark infringement in respect of the use of the mark ‘NUDE’ by the proposed product ‘STELLANUDE’.
Held: Despite the differences, it was ‘arguable that the . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

European, Intellectual Property

Updated: 03 June 2022; Ref: scu.161642