September 22, 2020

Some mess around Messi and his Trademark (Massi vs. Messi)

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) confirmed a previous decision by the General Court (GC), that there is no likelihood of confusion between the word mark MASSI and a figurative sign containing the word MESSI. The latter sign was filed by the well-known football player Lionel Messi.

The decision is important because it confirms the special status of the conceptual comparison in the likelihood of confusion test: even if signs have a high degree of visual and aural similarity, strong conceptual dissimilarity may suffice to prevent a finding of likelihood of confusion.

Lionel Messi filed for the figurative trademark containing his name in 2011. The TM was granted by EUIPO but then opposed by the Spanish firm Massi, which had already a TM in the classes of clothing and footwear.

The opposition was won by Massi, which then appealed the decision to the General Court (GC). The GC, as well as the CJEU confirmed that there is little likelihood of confusion between the two trademarks and it would be undesirable to public figures, such as Messi, to be deprived from registering their own name for commercial purposes.