Only Deutsche Post may call itself "Die Post"
Germany's Patent and Trade Mark Office rejects petition to cancel registered trademarkBonn, 09/04/2006, 11:30 AM CEST
In a remarkably clear ruling, Germany's Patent and Trade Mark Office has rejected a petition by BIEK, an association bringing together providers of international express and courier services, to cancel the "Die Post" trademark registered by Deutsche Post. The association, set up by competitors of Deutsche Post, had disputed the strength of the connection between the term "Die Post" ("the post office") and Deutsche Post in the public mind. This was despite the fact that the secondary meaning of the term had been established by Deutsche Post at the time the trademark was registered: in independent surveys, well over eighty per cent of respondents related the term "Die Post" to Deutsche Post. More recent surveys had confirmed this finding; the latest, conducted by tns infratest in the fall of 2005, had produced a result of 83.9 per cent.
In its ruling, the Patent and Trade Mark Office explains that, although "Die Post" is a descriptive term, the fact that it is clearly linked with the company in the public mind justifies the trademark protection afforded to Deutsche Post. In reaching this conclusion, the Patent and Trade Mark Office is confirming that Deutsche Post enjoys a level of brand recognition that is almost unmatched in Germany, as well as a degree of secondary meaning - in the case of the term "Die Post" - that is unparalleled under current trademark law.
The ruling is especially significant in view of a case scheduled to be heard by the Federal Patent Tribunal in the fall of 2006, in which Deutsche Post is contesting the cancellation of its registered word mark "Post". The similarity between the terms "Post" and "Die Post" and the unambiguous ruling by the Patent and Trade Mark Office strengthens the company's conviction that its interpretation of the law is correct. The economic significance of this dispute derives from the risk that, without adequate protection of proprietary rights, Deutsche Post's competitors can ride on the company's coattails, appropriating the name without providing the quality and reliability with which it is associated. This would give them an undeserved competitive advantage.