Precedential case on design protection in the European Court of Justice
Since 2002 it has been possible to register an asset in the form of design protection that applies throughout the EU. Until 2010, no case had been appealed all the way up to the highest court, the EU Court Tribunal. This meant that there was still some uncertainty about the strength and scope of design protection, particularly since many of the EU member states had often judged differently in the cases previously handled. This situation continued until the case between the Spanish company Promer, represented by Groth & Co in Alicante, and PepsiCo was taken up by the European Court in March, 2011.
The case concerned Pogs or Tazos, a type of toy shaped like a large coin and made of plastic, cardboard or aluminum, and printed with highly colourful designs. Games are played with the discs, with the aim of winning the opponent’s discs. PepsiCo began distributing discs under the name Tazos through its subsidiary Fritolay. However, Promer already had a design registration for a similar disc, and had actually approached PepsiCo on a number of occasions to sell the concept to them.
Legal proceedings began in 2003 and have passed through OHIM’s Opposition Division, the EU Court of Appeals and finally the European Court Tribunal. Groth & Co’s customer Promer emerged victorious from the proceedings armed with argumentation and comprehensive knowledge of EU practice. The EU Court annulled PepsiCo’s registration.
"Until 2010 there was still uncertainty about the strength and scope of design protection in the EU."