A European court showed no signs of going soft on German teddy bear maker Steiff when it ruled against its trademark application this morning.
The 134-year old company had hoped to win a trademark for a button, or a label attached by means of a button, to the middle of the ear of a teddy bear – a tradition it claims is being copying by cheaper manufacturers.
But the court was having none of it. It ruled the Steiff ear button/label was not distinctive enough and that ear buttons were too common a practice among the teddy bear manufacturing community to be considered exceptional.
OHIM [community trade mark office] has rejected Steiff’s requests, holding that the marks applied for were devoid of distinctive character: they did not enable consumers to recognise the commercial origin of the products, that is to say that the product is a Steiff soft toy and not the soft toy of another manufacturer.
Maybe they should have mentioned the fact that the label is bright yellow. That’s pretty distinctive. Or drawn a more detailed illustration of what exactly they were talking about than this...
The fact that Steiff may be the sole manufacturer to attach a shiny or mat round metal button to the ears of soft toys or a fabric label in the form of an elongated rectangle in the middle of the ear of soft toys by means of a button is irrelevant.
Still, bet Hamleys is pleased.
Let’s hope Alex James, the cheese-making Blur-bassist has put a bit more work into his application to trademark a drink called Britpop. We wouldn’t want the Intellectual Property Office to find a “blurring” of distinctions there...