There was good news for international super villains across the world recently as one of their number, Dr No, saw the rights to his name released from the clutches of James Bond and awarded to a German media group.

This is the latest development in a long running battle over the rights to the name of Dr No, the eponymous villain from the first James Bond film, which has recently been the subject of a decision from the European Court of First Instance.

German media group, Mission Productions, has successfully won the right to apply for trade mark protection for the name across Europe following an eight-year battle.

Danjaq, the owners of the rights to the James Bond franchise had challenged the trade mark on the grounds that there was a risk of confusion because of the use of the terms "Dr No" and "Dr NO" in the James Bond films and related promotions.

The Court of First Instance did not agree with Danjaq however on the basis that the essential function of a trade mark was commercial recognition. It held that Danjaq's uses of the name were artistic rather than commercial.

The Court stated "Those signs affixed to the covers of the video cassettes or to the DVDs help to distinguish that film from other films in the James Bond series. Other signs, such as 007 or James Bond, indicate the commercial origin of the film. In those circumstances, the signs Dr No and Dr NO cannot be regarded as well known trade marks or non-registered trade marks that could be relied on in order to oppose the registration of a Community trade mark."

Danjaq previously opposed the application for this trade mark when the German company submitted its application to the European trade mark office. Danjaq were also unsuccessful on that occasion. In response to this initial failure Danjaq took steps to submit trade mark applications for all of the other titles in the James Bond series.

Danjaq has been successful in obtaining trade marks for a large number of the titles but it has also received challenges in respect of some of the most famous Bond titles: Casino Royale, Octopussy and Goldeneye. These applications are still pending and on the basis of the decision in respect of Dr No there may be further disappointment ahead for Danjaq.