Monday, 29 September 2014

Coca-cola: are the big companies always the winners?

The Colombia Superintendence of Industry and Commerce (SIC) ruled in favour of Coca-Cola in a recent opposition proceedings.

The action brought was against Mr Moreno who applied for the registration of ‘Chevicola’ for beers, sodas, waters and other soft drinks (Class 32 Nice International Classification). By Resolution No. 64160, the opposition proceeded in favour of the international drinks giant and rejected the application for the sign ‘Chevicola’. Mr Moreno appealed to the decision arguing that the trade mark was a combination of words and moreover, the noun ‘Chevi’ was the predominant word and not ‘cola’. That said, there was no likelihood of confusion.

Additionally, Mr Moreno argued that the global appreciation test, i.e. the ‘orthographic, phonetic and conceptual’ differences, allowed ‘Chevicola’ to be a distinguished sign from that of Coca-cola.
According to lawyer Hernán Ruiz, an expert in Colombian IP law, who disagrees with the decision, the appreciation of the two marks was based on what was similar rather than different. He asked: what would the consumer believe? Will they be confused as to the origin? However, here is important to bring into attention "Word trademarks must be compared pursuant to the following rules:... Rule 4. The similarities, and not the differences, existing between the trademarks must be taken into account" .

Lawyer Ruiz extended as to say that he would have found a more ‘justified opposition’ by Chevrolet Chevy (however, in this hypothetical case as the products were dissimilar the action would not be as the same as in the present case. i.e. similar marks for identical products. In such hypothesis, it would be similar marks for dissimilar products and this action could be brought if it is a reputable mark Decision 486 Art 155 (e)).

The article that I read with this information have a headline indicating that ‘the giant is the winner’. It reports that a few months ago, the Coca-Cola Company won another opposition procedures against Postobón Alpina. Do you agree with what the headline implies? what about the decision: is Chevicola similar to Coca-cola? or is SIC giving too much monopoly to the international company over the word 'cola'?

Source La Republica (in Spanish).

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