Tyre manufacturer Pirelli will not receive trademark protection for a trademark consisting of stripes on a tyre, the European General court ruled on 4 July. Pirelli always applies the stripes in the same position on its tyres, in different colours.

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Left: The colours as applied by Pirelli. Right: The rejected ‘position trademark’ registration.

Not distinctive

According to the Court, Pirelli was unable to show that this ‘position trademark’ (a sign that is distinguished by the specific position at which it is applied) has acquired distinctiveness through use.

Position trademarks under pressure

Position trademarks in general are struggling. The European Trademark Office EUIPO does not easily tend to accept them. Some examples of position trademarks that are still awaiting the approval of EUIPO are presented below. Chiever regards the chances that these trademarks, like the Pirelli trademark, could face rejection as fairly high.

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Left: Position trademark for a screwdriver. The applicant is seeking protection for the specific position of the coloured parts on the handle. Right: Shirts with five squares on the sleeve.

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Left: Shoes with laces that look like 3 crosses. Right: A medical pump with a green label at a specific position. We now have to wait and see which ones make it through the application process.

Acceptance after all

Remarkably enough, the position trademark below did make it: a lightning flash at a specific position on a shoe.