(CN) – Volkswagen cannot claim that Suzuki’s Swift GTi violated its trademark, the General Court of the European Union ruled Wednesday.
Suzuki applied for registration of the name Swift GTi in 2003 as a community mark for motor vehicles, their parts and accessories. Volkswagen opposed the registration as the proprietor of the mark GTI worldwide, citing the likelihood of confusion in the marketplace.
The Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM) dismissed Volkswagen’s objection, deciding that any potential confusion over the letters “gti” would be countered by Suzuki’s use of the word “Swift” prior to the letters in question. Volkswagen appealed that decision to the EU General Court in Luxembourg.
In dismissing Volkswagen’s claim, the court said that the letters had “only an extremely low degree of inherent distinctiveness for the general public.”
“In that regard, OHIM had taken particular account of the widespread use of the initials GTI by numerous car manufacturers throughout Europe … to indicate the technical characteristics of certain models and the existence of other marks containing the initials GTI,” the court said in a statement.
The court pointed out that Rover, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Peugeot, Toyota and Citroen all use the initials GTI for various vehicles marketed throughout Europe.
“Moreover, OHIM was right to find that the word SWIFT, perceived as fanciful and positioned in the initial part of the mark applied for, was its most distinctive element,” the court said.
The OHIM was “right to conclude that any visual, phonetic or conceptual similarity between the marks at issue was largely compensated or even entirely countered by the model name SWIFT,” according to the statement.
Average European customers would not automatically assume that all vehicles, parts and accessories with the initials GTI came from the same manufacturer, and thus there is no likelihood of confusion, the court concluded.
The court’s decision is not available in English.