Distinction between ALCOOTEL and ALCATEL, or the benefits of alcohol as regards likelihood of confusion

Paris Court of Appeal – October 17, 2008

In last October, the Paris Court of Appeal rejected ALCATEL LUCENT’s request to have likelihood of confusion excluded between its trademark ALCATEL and the sign ALCOOTEL.

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Surprisingly, the Court confirmed the decision of the French Trademark Office, which had considered that the visual, conceptual and phonetic evocation of ALCOO clearly suggested the notion of alcohol, and hence excluded any likelihood of confusion between the two signs.

We cannot but salute the Court of Appeal’s demonstration that “the double O in the middle of the trademark produces a specific sound”, and “the double O in the central part of ALCOOTEL, which substituted for the letter A at the same place in the other mark, puts the prefix ALCOO forward and thus gives the sign a distinct appearance, although the two marks have a number of letters in common”.

Unfortunately, ALCATEL failed to have the notoriousness of its mark recognized as a valid argument, as they didn’t present the necessary documents before the Office.

The Court followed (and in this case further developed) the approach that tends to give prevalence to the concept over the phonetic and visual similarity that may exist between two signs.


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