Decision of the Federal Patent Court 25 W (pat) 526/21 KÖLNER DOM of 19 January 2023
27 July 2023
“KÖLNER DOM” cannot be protected as a trade mark
The “KÖLNER DOM” or Cologne Cathedral, is a world-famous cathedral and a very popular cultural site in Germany.
The applicant had applied for the registration of “KÖLNER DOM” as a trade mark in order to commercialise the name for various goods and services, including clothing, souvenirs, and tourism services. The German Patent and Trade Mark Office had rejected the application, stating that Cologne Cathedral is a public monument and therefore cannot be registered as a trade mark. This is due to the need for trade marks to be owned by its commercial origin. This is not the case here because the sign will merely be perceived as the name of the famous cathedral and not as an indication to a company manufacturing specific souvenir articles.
Thus, according to the Office, the name of public monuments are for the freedom of the public to use.
Following on the appeal for the applicant, the Federal Patent Court upheld the decision of the German Patent and Trade Mark Office, arguing that Cologne Cathedral is a public monument and therefore cannot be registered as a trade mark. The registration of Cologne Cathedral as a trade mark would give the applicant exclusive rights to use the name of the cathedral for commercial purposes, which goes against public interests. Furthermore, consumers may believe that goods and services bearing the trade mark are endorsed or sponsored by the cathedral, which would be misleading.
This decision clearly confirms that the name of public monuments cannot be registered as trade marks, and highlights the importance of protecting the public interest and preventing confusion among consumers.
Trade Marks group
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© Withers & Rogers LLP July 2023