Bet365 Wins European Union General Court Support In Trademark Issue

Online gambling group persuades officials that its title has achieved distinctive character

UK online gambling group Bet365 is making progress on its long-running battle to register its title for trademark protection in Europe, with the European Union General Court at least partly supporting the company’s case.

In a ruling this week the court struck down part of a prior finding that the mark ‘Bet365′ was descriptive and had not acquired distinctive character in class 41, covering betting services.

Bet365 has been contesting the earlier ruling in a dispute that goes back a decade, when the gambling company tried to file a trademark application with the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO).

The examiner rejected the application because it was felt the title was merely descriptive of the goods and services delivered and was not sufficiently distinctive. Bet365 challenged the finding, producing evidence that its title had through use and effect become distinctive in character.

This evidence was acknowledged by the examiner in 2008 as showing that Bet365 had achieved distinction for its brand, and the application was accepted and published for any opposition later that year.

It was registered in 2012 after a challenge by one Robert Hansen was rejected.

It appears that Hansen had an interest in securing trademark protection for his own b365 brand.

Hansen was back in opposition to the Bet365 registration the following year, requesting that it be made invalid by the Cancellation Division.

He was unsuccessful and in November 2014 he took the issue to the Fifth Board of Appeal at the EUIPO, which went against the examiners’ and ruled that the Bet365 mark was descriptive and “intrinsically not distinctive”.

Bet365 appealed to the EU General Court, which this week annulled the Fifth Board of Appeal’s decision insofar as it concerns the services in class 41, but dismissed the remainder of the action from Bet365. Those elements of the Bet365 appeal dealt with classes including computer software, games, advertising and financial services.

The General Court said the Fifth Board of Appeal had not sufficiently substantiated its decision concerning the gambling and betting services in class 41.

“Consequently, with regard to those services, the single plea in law seeking annulment is well founded and there is no need to examine the last arguments put forward by the applicant concerning the lack of opinion polls or evidence from a chamber of commerce in respect of which it was criticised by the Board of Appeal,” it found.