Stockholm 16 Feb 2014

Swedish Match Loses 3D Trademark for Snuff-box

By the judgment of the District Court of Stockholm, Sweden, on December 20, 2013, Swedish Match has had its 3D trade mark for a snuff-box cancelled. The snuff-box as a mark was not found to be distinctive. Swedish Match had to pay all the legal costs.

Swedish Match, a Swedish tobacco company, used to have a trademark registration for the shape of a cylinder-shaped snuff box. V2 Tobacco A/S, a Danish tobacco company, had through its subsidiary sold snuff products on the Swedish market in boxes shaped similar to those that Swedish Match had registered as a 3D mark. Swedish Match then sued V2 and its subsidiary, claiming among other things that V2 should discontinue sales of the snuff-boxes that resembled those that Swedish Match sold, otherwise they would have to pay a fine of half a million Swedish crowns. It was also claimed that V2 would have to pay compensation for the use of the 3D mark.

V2 disputed Swedish Match’s claims, claiming instead that the registration in respect to Swedish Match’s 3D mark should be cancelled. The District Court therefore examined the distinctiveness of the 3D mark. Initially, it was not proven that the mark had degenerated and lost its distinctiveness by becoming a common name. The Court did not, on the other hand, hold that the cylinder shaped canister itself could be regarded as having inherent distinctiveness. The District Court also found, after a comprehensive assessment, that there was nothing supporting the fact that a significant portion of the people who might buy snuff (the target public) perceives Swedish Match’s snuff-boxes as originating only from Swedish Match (commercial origin). It was therefore not clear that the consumers would make a connection between the shape of the snuff-box and Swedish Match and their products, which led to the snuff-boxes not being deemed to have acquired distinctiveness.

The District Court cancelled Swedish Match’s trademark registration relating to the 3D-mark as it found that the trademark had neither inherent nor acquired distinctiveness. Swedish Match was ordered to pay V2 and its subsidiaries’ costs of nearly three and a half million Swedish Crowns (approx. 400,000 Euro).

Swedish Match has since the case was decided lodged an appeal against the ruling of the District Court to the Svea Court of Appeal.


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