Women’s names SARA, OLIVIA and SOFIA for furniture – Judgment of Finnish Market Court on trademark infringement in Laulumaa Huonekalut Oy v. Pohjanmaan Kaluste Oy

Background

The Market Court of Finland (MAO) gave its judgment on 16 March 2018 on trademark infringement case of Laulumaa Huonekalut Oy v. Pohjanmaan Kaluste Oy (MAO:154/18).

Furniture seller Laulumaa Huonekalut Oy (“Laulumaa“) had filed a trademark infringement claim with the Market Court against a furniture manufacturer Pohjanmaan Kaluste Oy (“Pohjanmaan“). The case concerned Finnish trademarks SARA No. 236024, OLIVIA No. 248620 and SOFIA No. 236285 registered for furniture in class 20:

Laulumaa claimed that Pohjanmaan had infringed Laulumaa’s trademark rights by using the names “Sara Bar table”, “Olivia Dining table” and “Sara Seatable sofa” in the sales and marketing of its products.

Laulumaa claimed the Market Court to confirm the infringement and order Pohjanmaan to cease the infringement. In addition, Laulumaa claimed reasonable compensation for the unauthorized use of the trademarks of € 100.000, compensation for the damage caused by the infringement of € 100.000, legal fees of € 35.804,50 and costs for publishing the judgment of € 2.470.

Pohjanmaan claimed that the trademarks had not been distinctive at the date of filing and have not acquired distinctiveness through use either. The names Sara, Sofia and Olivia have been among the most popular names in Finland in the last decades – these names and corresponding forenames have been used for furniture by various entities and it has become established practice to use the names like product numbers, not to indicate their origin.

Judgment

Based on the evidence provided by Pohjanmaan, the Market Court acknowledged that different furniture traders had identified their products using women’s forenames, such as Sara, Olivia and Sofia, even before Laulumaa’s trademark applications were filed. Thus, the Market Court considered that the trademarks may have distinctiveness only in respect of their figurative elements. Thus, the injunctive right of the trademark remains very restricted.

The Market Court considered that Pohjanmaan had used the names in marketing but not the parts that would be even slightly distinctive, i.e. the figurative elements other than standard font style. The Market Court came to the conclusion that the use of the names did not constitute use of the protected trademarks, and thus, there was no trademark infringement.

Consequently, the Market Court dismissed Laulumaa’s claim in its entirety and ordered Laulumaa to cover Pohjanmaan’s legal fees with the amount of € 29.883,60.

Author

Suvi Haavisto 
Brand Protection Lawyer
Helsinki