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.
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.
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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.