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10 April Index | Next Article

Trademarks

Israel

The Israeli Supreme Court: The idea of the Mark is Protected under Israeli Trademark Law
Unilever Plc v. Eli Segev

(C.A. 8441/04 Unilever Plc v. Eli Segev; Judgment of the Israeli Supreme Court dated August 23, 2006, yet unpublished).

The Trademark Registrar rejected an opposition filed by Unilever Plc., the proprietor of the famous Dove & Dove Device trademarks with respect to cosmetic products, to an Israeli trademark application to register a Dove Device with respect to cosmetic products, filed by a Mr. Eli Segev.  The Supreme Court has now overturned the Registrar's decision and ruled that the opposition should be accepted. In an important precedent, Justice Berliner ruled that Unilever is entitled to protect the motive of a dove in connection with cosmetic products against infringers, since it has acquired significant goodwill and can be regarded as a famous trademark. Contrary to the Registrar's opinion, general principles of freedom of competition do not justify the copying of the dominant motive of Unilever's mark (the "idea of the mark"). Justice Berliner further emphasized that the parties' marks should be compared as a whole, and small differences between the marks are immaterial in view of the consumer's imperfect recollection. The Respondent copied the dominant motive in Unilever's famous trademark -- the use of a dove device in connection with hygiene and personal care cosmetic products. It is unquestionable that Unilever's mark (which consists of the word DOVE and the Dove Device) is a very famous trademark and enjoys extensive goodwill. Thus, the average consumer associates the motive of a dove with respect to hygiene and personal care cosmetic products with Unilever and, therefore, the opposed mark of the Respondent is not eligible for registration on the grounds of likelihood of confusion to Unilever's famous trademark, dilution of Unilever's trademark and unfair competition. On a final (and important) note, the Supreme Court rejected the Registrar's opinion that a Dove Device is a symbol which should be left open for public use. Justice Berliner held that Unilever was not trying to appropriate the general use of a Dove Device. It was merely seeking protection over the motive of association between the Dove Device and hygiene and personal care cosmetic products, which is perfectly within the scope of protection it is entitled to enjoy under trademark law.

Adin-Liss, Law Offices