Renowned figurative trademark: the Rolling Stones’ emblem assimilated to the rock band
The logo in the shape of a red mouth sticking out its tongue of the group Rolling Stones is examined by the judicial court of Paris. In a decision dated February 25, 2021, the court accepts that this logo is a reputed trademark in the European Union. Badges bearing a modified version of the logo with a Breton flag therefore constitute an infringement of the reputed trademark and an infringement of the copyright on this design. The court associated the reputation of the figurative mark with that of the rock band.
Infringement of a reputed figurative trademark
The company BV manages the intellectual property rights of the English rock band The Rolling Stones. Following a customs seizure of goods from China, it sued the company importing the badges bearing a modified version of the famous red mouth for trademark infringement, copyright infringement, unfair competition and parasitism. These last two grounds are rejected but the court recognizes the trademark and copyright infringement.
The Paris court analyzed the reputation of the European trademark invoked in support of the claim. To do so, it took into consideration the case law of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). Thus, a “reputed trademark must be known to a significant part of the relevant public for the goods and services covered” (ECJ, 14 September 1999, GENERAL MOTORS / YPLON).
In this case, the logo of the rock band is considered as the “living language of the Rolling Stones“, as the most iconic logo according to surveys and is widely used on a large number of derivative products.
The Paris court seems to closely associate the logo with the rock band, justifying the fame of one by the notoriety of the other. Renowned figurative trademarks thus sometimes benefit from confusion with their owner. Some commentators refer to the personification of the logo when these persons enjoy a significant notoriety.
Very classically, the Paris court analyzes the risk of confusion based on the overall impression produced by the signs in question and taking into account the reputation of the trademark. The court recalls that “the risk of confusion is all the higher as the distinctive character of the earlier trademark proves to be important”.
Infringement of copyright
The plaintiff company is the owner of the patrimonial rights on the drawing created by John Pasche, around the mouth of Mick Jagger and that of the goddess Kali.
The originality of the work is recognized in that the author “associates elements emanating from a psychedelic universe and translates a message inviting to an upheaval of the morals, translating an own vision”. By comparing the litigious drawings, the court admits the copyright infringement.
The law firm DE BAECQUE BELLEC regularly works with numerous artists to defend their rights under copyright and trademark law.
Stéphane Bellec, Attorney, Partner Cabinet De Baecque Bellec
Intellectual property attorney
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