Parody of well-known marks – how far can you go?

Print publication


The claimant was the proprietor of the mark PUMA (shown here) used in connection with sportswear. The defendant, a T-shirt design company, was the registered proprietor of the mark PUDEL (“poodle” in English), which was registered later, shown here.

The proprietor of the PUMA mark instituted proceedings for trade mark infringement and the case worked its way all the way up to the German Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court considered that although there were obvious differences between the two marks, namely the wording and the image, they were nonetheless sufficiently similar to warrant ordering the removal of the PUDEL mark from the trade marks register.

The rationale for the Court’s decision was twofold; firstly the Court found that the PUDEL mark took unfair advantage of the character and repute of the PUMA mark and secondly, it found that the rights of the owners of that mark outweighed those of the PUDEL mark’s owners in respect of their right to freedom of art and free expression.

The Court considered that although there was unlikely to be confusion on the part of the public there was still the potential for consumers to mentally connect the two marks in a way that was unfair to PUMA.