Coca-Cola loses Community trademark case, as European court decides the bottle design does not have distinctive character

Hayley Kirton
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Coca-Cola's bottles were not distinctive enough for the General Court (Source: Getty)

The Coca-Cola Company has today lost a legal battle to trademark for its bottle design.

The General Court of the European Union rejected the soft drink brand's request to register a contour bottle without fluting as a Community trademark because the design does not have any characteristics to make it stand out from other products in the market.

Coca-Cola originally applied to register the bottle design for a Community trademark, which are valid throughout the European Union, with the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market in December 2011.

The Office rejected the application in March 2014 on the grounds that the design was devoid of any distinctive character.

In its judgment today, the General Court also remarked that the company had failed to show that the design had gained distinctive character through use.

A Coca-Cola spokesperson said: "We are disappointed with the result and considering whether to pursue this further to the Court of Justice."

Last month, the High Court ruled that Nestle could not register Kit Kat's four-finger bar shape as a trademark because it was not distinctive enough.

"Trade marking a shape can be a tricky business," explained Iain Connor, partner at Pinsent Masons. "There are numerous factors that can go against a grant, for instance if the shape is borne out of the nature of the product, if it adds substantial value to the product or if it takes on a form that is necessary to obtain a technical result.

"It’s easy to understand why it’s so important for businesses to try to protect some of their leading products as trade marks because trade mark protection can last forever, but we’ve already seen a number of failed attempts like this recently and I expect that we’ll continue to see a lot more."

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