Monday, 15 June 2009

Puma pounces on pipe mark infringer

In Puma AG Rudolf Dassler Sport v Cueros del Norte SRL (Case 14414/2003, March 27 2009), a decision of the Federal Civil and Commercial Court of Appeals of Buenos Aires, Cueros del Norte SRL was orded to stop using the plaintiff's 'inverted pipe' design for sports shoes.

Puma, the proprietor in Argentina of a figurative trade mark consisting of an inverted pipe for goods in Class 25 (sports shoes), sued Cueros for trade mark and design infringement, seeking both damages and injunctive relief: Cueros's design had an additional stripe that ran from the broader portion of the pipe to the back of the shoe. The trial court dismissed the action on the basis that the designs at issue were different. Puma appealed.

The Court of Appeals considered that Cueros had copied the inverted pipe design, since the similarity of its design to that of Puma could not have occurred by chance. The trade mark had been infringed too. The court observed that sports shoe manufacturers invest large amounts of money in promoting their brands and that some device marks have become well known worldwide: these included Puma's inverted pipe. The court added that well-known marks should enjoy broad protection.

Taking all the circumstances into account, the court awarded Puma damages of Ps30,000 (approximately US$8,000). While Puma wanted the shoes destroyed, the court decided that the parties should consider the possibility of donating the shoes to a charitable organisation: the goods should be destroyed only if the parties failed to reach agreement.

Source: note for World Trademark Review by Fernando Noetinger, Noetinger & Armando, Buenos Aires.

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