Sabel BV v. Puma AG

Case C-251/95, [1997] E.C.R. I-6191 (1997)

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Sabel BV v. Puma AG

European Union Court of Justice
Case C-251/95, [1997] E.C.R. I-6191 (1997)

Facts

Dutch company Sabel BV (plaintiff) applied to register as a trademark in Germany an image of a large cat running, accompanied by the lowercase text “sabèl” and other illustrative elements. Sabel wanted to apply the trademark to leather goods, clothing, and accessories. German company Puma AG (defendant) opposed the registration, arguing that Sabel’s proposed mark resembled its own trademark, comprised of a running puma unaccompanied by text or embellishment. Puma’s mark was already registered for the same category of goods as those made by Sabel. The German Patent Office found no resemblance between the two marks for trademark purposes. Puma appealed to the Germany Federal Patents Court, which found that the two marks did resemble each other and rejected Sabel’s trademark application. Sabel sought an annulment of that decision from the Germany Federal Court of Justice. That court provisionally concluded that no likelihood of confusion existed between the marks, but it referred the question of the proper interpretation of Article 4(1)(b) of Directive 89/104/EEC (directive), the directive outlining the likelihood-of-confusion standard, to the European Union (EU) Court of Justice, which considered the issue in a preliminary ruling.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Per curiam)

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