The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has delivered a ruling on whether the meaning and pronunciation of words in non-Latin alphabets should be taken into consideration when assessing similarity between marks.

The case in question [1] concerned an opposition brought against the registration of a figurative Community trade mark (CTM) containing the Arabic word "el baina", meaning "sight". The opposition was brought on the basis of two earlier CTM registrations, one containing the Arabic word "el benna" ("taste") and the other "el bnina" ("softness"). All the marks were in respect of various foodstuffs and beverages. Whilst "el benna" and "el bnina" are pronounced very differently from "el baina", visually they are similar.

The Belgian court considered that the relevant public for the purposes of determining a likelihood of confusion was Muslim consumers of Arab origin in the EU, who ate halal food products and who possessed a basic knowledge of Arabic.

The CJEU ruled that where the relevant public had a basic knowledge of Arabic, the meaning and pronunciation of the different words, in Arabic, should be taken into account, as otherwise the court would be unable to fully take into account the overall impression of the competing marks on the relevant public.

This should be a very non-controversial decision but does demonstrate the application of established principles in a slightly unusual context.