By decision rendered on May 31, 2013 within procedure T-396/11, the Court set out the EU boundaries of the concept of "abuse of rights".
The Court ruled on the right to pursue the invalidity of a trademark under Article. 56 (1)(a) of EC Regulation no. 207/2009 for lack of distinctive character, making it clear that any bad faith or private interest of the applicant (also animated by the mere purpose of using the sign subsequently cancelled) does not make the application vitiated by abuse of rights.
The Court stated that applications for a declaration of invalidity based on absolute grounds for invalidity may be proposed by any person or entity. These absolute grounds for invalidity - as those raised in the disputed case - are intended to protect general interests (i.e. ensuring that a registered trademark fulfils its essential function of indicating the origin of the product or service and safeguarding the right of all economic operators to use a descriptive sign). On the contrary, the right to make applications for a declaration of invalidity based on a relative ground for invalidity is reserved to certain specific persons who have an interest in bringing proceedings.
It follows that there is no interest in limiting the right to apply for a declaration of invalidity based on absolute grounds, in consideration of private interests behind it.
In the disputed case, the right of the applicant to bring action remained unaffected even by the circumstance that the manager of the applicant for a declaration of invalidity was the manager of the trademark owner at the time when the application for registration of the mark was filed.