On Feb. 5, 2009, the German Federal Court of Justice dismissed the claims of the Metro Group for alleged trademark infringement against the public transportation services of Hamburg, Berlin and Munich. The Metro Group owns registrations to the trademarks “METRO” and “Metrorapid”, for travel and transportation services. The public transportation companies use the designation “METROBUS” for bus lines connecting underground stations with the remaining transport network. The transportation companies obtained registration of this word as a trademark in combination with the corresponding abbreviations of the company names: “BVG Metrobus”, “HVV Metrobus” and “MVG Metrobus”. The Metro Group argued that the use of these trade marks infringes its rights to its trademarks and its company name.
The Federal Court of Justice confirmed the decisions of the courts of lower instance, and ruled that there is no likelihood of confusion between the trademarks of Metro Group and the designation “METROBUS” in the field of passenger transportation. The public does not split the word “METROBUS” into the parts “metro” and “bus” and, thus, does not associate the Metro Group with the bus lines. Therefore, there would not be claims of the Metro Group based on the notoriety of its trademark and its company name, either.
The Federal Court of Justice ruled in favor of the Metro Group regarding one question only: The transportation companies may not register the trademark “METROBUS” for products and services that do not relate to transportation services.