EU Rules in Favor of Sovena in Trademark Battle

Rival companies Sovena and Mueliva fought to claim ownership of similar brands.

Jan. 12, 2017
By Courtney Slusser

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After four years of debate, the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) has ruled in favor of olive oil man­u­fac­turer Sovena, issu­ing forth the right to use all rep­re­sen­ta­tions of the Fontoliva brand.

Genuine use of the ear­lier Spanish mark in Spain for vir­gin olive oil dur­ing the rel­e­vant period has not been estab­lished by Mueloliva.- EU Intellectual Property Office

Up until this point, oppos­ing olive oil pro­ducer, Mueloliva, had made efforts to pre­vent Sovena from uti­liz­ing the brand, claim­ing sole author­ity over the rights to Fontoliva due to its sim­i­lar­ity to their own Fuenoliva brand. After dis­cov­er­ing lim­ited cur­rent and com­mer­cial usage of the brand on the part of Mueloliva, EUIPO has granted favor to Sovena, end­ing a four-year argu­ment between the two com­pa­nies.

Fontoliva drew con­tention between the rival com­pa­nies as it staked a claim to own­er­ship of the brand and its like­ness.

In 2012, Sovena, a lead­ing olive oil pro­ducer from Portugal, applied to reg­is­ter the Fontoliva brand but was met with oppo­si­tion by Mueloliva, who claimed sole own­er­ship and usage rights.

Mueloliva argued that its right to sole pro­pri­ety was sup­ported by estab­lished prece­dent point­ing to two rul­ings made by EUIPO. In 2014 and 2015, EUIPO upheld the rul­ing in favor of Mueloliva, show­ing that the Fuenoliva brand was cur­rent and that Sovena’s usage of the Fontoliva brand might cre­ate con­fu­sion among con­sumers.

After fur­ther inves­ti­ga­tion, EUIPO dis­cov­ered addi­tional pieces of infor­ma­tion sup­port­ing the deci­sion to allow Sovena the right to use the Fontoliva brand.

Despite its claims of cur­rent wide­spread pro­duc­tion, EUIPO found that Mueloliva’s usage of the brand was lim­ited in scope, reach­ing only 42,000 litres in sales, a small amount for the mar­ket under review. In addi­tion, only ten non-con­sec­u­tive invoices, three labels and two press arti­cles were dis­cov­ered as evi­dence uphold­ing Mueloliva’s claim.

The judge­ment of the General Court con­cluded: It fol­lows that gen­uine use of the ear­lier Spanish mark in Spain for vir­gin olive oil dur­ing the rel­e­vant period has not been estab­lished by Mueloliva in regard to the criteria…in par­tic­u­lar hav­ing regard to the low vol­umes which were proved to have been mar­keted under that mark and the irreg­u­lar nature of the sales in ques­tion dur­ing the rel­e­vant period in rela­tion to the oppos­ing par­ty’s olive-oil-pro­duc­tion capac­ity and the char­ac­ter­is­tics of that mass-con­sump­tion food prod­uct.”

According to the InfoCuria legal web­site, the court found favor with Sovena based on the lim­ited gen­uine use of the ear­lier Fuenoliva trade­mark. In addi­tion to a rul­ing grant­ing pro­tec­tion of the use of the name Fontoliva, the court ordered EUIPO to pay any costs incurred by Sovena for court pro­ceed­ings. In addi­tion to such pay­ment, EUIPO and Mueloliva were each ordered to pay half of the costs incurred by Sovena for the pur­poses of the pro­ceed­ings before the Board of Appeal of EUIPO.

The case of Sovena Portugal — Consumer Goods SA v EUIPO is offi­cially closed.

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