NASCAR drives for success in trademark dispute

Represented by Sorainen, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) won a court case over its trademark in Lithuania.

The dispute arose after a pharmaceutical company attempted to register “Nascar” as a trademark for medicine-related goods. Even though NASCAR did not use its brand to mark medicinal products, this could not justify the unfair exploitation of a trademark that is widely associated with a popular car race.

Convinced by the large number of spectators and participants of the “Nascar” car race, as well as numerous press publications regarding the race, and the high popularity of “Nascar” branded goods, Vilnius Regional Court recognised “Nascar” as a well-known trademark in Lithuania. On this ground, the court declared the trademark registration by the pharmaceutical company invalid.

The Vilnius International Film Festival (Vilnius IFF) ‘Kino Pavasaris’ decided to take action against illegal streaming platforms to prevent its headliner movie “Parasite” from unauthorised distribution online.

With the help of Sorainen, copyright-infringing material has been removed from several websites. The next step is to ask the Lithuanian Radio and Television Commission to block access to websites that contain illegal content.

Vilnius IFF is the largest and most important cinema event in Lithuania. In 2020, Vilnius IFF will screen more than 170 films. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the festival has moved online this year, so copyright protection on the Internet is even more important.

“For the Sake of the Fatherland”: signs of symbolic value as trademarks

The Lithuanian Patent Office refused to register the word mark “Tėvynės labui” (“For the sake of the Fatherland”) due to its high symbolic value. In this case, the word mark was a reference to a knight on the Lithuanian national coat of arms.

The trademark application was filed by Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis, who had previously used the slogan for his presidential campaign. The trademark attempt, however, caused a severe public reaction, especially among military officers and state officials, for whom the phrase has great moral value.

Under the Lithuanian Law on Trademarks, signs of high symbolic value are not recognised as trademarks and their registration is denied. In practice, such cases are rare, so the Patent Office decision is an important precedent.

This is not the first time this year that a trademark-related issue has become a public issue. In February, the forget-me-not, a five-petalled blue flower signifying a pledge to never forget Soviet aggression, became the object of a feud between Lithuanian political parties. A revelation that the forget-me-not symbol had been trademarked by a member of parliament sparked a debate over its legitimacy.

Read more about the “Tėvynės labui” case by Stasys Drazdauskas here (in Lithuanian).

Read Stasys Drazdauskas’ comment on trademarks containing state symbols (in Lithuanian).

Despite losing at first instance, Ecolight protects its trademark rights in the EU

Ecolight, a manufacturer of industrial lighting units, had its trademark registered in Lithuania around a decade ago. In 2016, the company filed an “Ecolight” trademark registration with the EU Intellectual Property Office. However, registration was opposed by the Italian company Consorzio Ecolight.

After the dispute went to court, Ecolight lost at first instance. However, an appeal resulted in a favourable decision for Ecolight.

Ecolight relied on the argument that lately the Italian company had not used the trademark actively in the EU, and although they had registered the brand for the same class as the Lithuanian company, Consorzio Ecolight was not a manufacturer of lighting units but engaged only in the disposal or recycling of old lamps. The Italian company failed to provide sufficient evidence of EU-wide visibility and active use of the existing mark.

Many companies, even large ones, face similar problems. For example, the former coffee chain “Coffee Inn” (now “Caffeine”) was banned from using the “Coffee Inn” trademark due to its similarity to the Estonian “Coffee in”. The Ecolight case is a lesson that companies which own strong trademarks should not be afraid to defend their rights.