No Trademark for Chair Shape, EU Adviser Says

     (CN) – A company based in Norway and the Netherlands cannot trademark the shape of a high chair, an adviser to Europe’s high court said Wednesday.
     Advocate General Maciej Szpunar urged the European Union’s Court of Justice to rule against the Stokke group, which includes the Norwegian company Stokke A/S and its Netherlands counterpart Stokke Nederland BV.
     The Stokke group makes and sells the ergonomic Tripp Trapp high chair, created by Norwegian designer Peter Opsvik.
     In 1998, Stokke A/S applied for a trademark for the chair’s three-dimensional shape.
     The Stokke group and Opsvik later sued German high-chair maker Hauck GmbH & Co. KG, claiming its “Alpha” and “Beta” high chairs infringed on the Tripp Trapp’s copyright and trademark.
     A court in the Netherlands upheld Stokke and Opsvik’s copyright claim, but declared the Tripp Trapp trademark invalid.
     The country’s high court referred the case to the EU Court of Justice, which typically follows the advice of its advocates general.
     Szpunar said that allowing a company to trademark the shape of a good undermines the purpose of trademark protection, as it bars competitors from improving on or enhancing the design, according to a press release.
     A shape that cannot be trademarked, in Szpunar’s opinion, is one “which results from the nature of the goods themselves or which gives substantial value to the goods,” such as the shape of a banana or rugby ball.
     The advocate general’s opinion, not available in English, is not binding on the court.

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