Anybody who could see into the mind of the average consumer would surely make a fortune – and that is what a High Court judge was required to attempt before handing victory in a trade mark dispute to a leading Scotch whisky distiller.
The distiller applied to register the words ‘JURA ORIGIN’ as a trade mark in respect of Scotch whisky and associated products. However, it faced opposition from a wine company which had already trade marked the word ‘ORIGIN’ in respect of wines and alcoholic beverages as well as a pictorial logo incorporating the same word.
A hearing officer appointed to resolve the dispute refused the distiller’s application on grounds that the opposing marks were sufficiently similar to cause direct confusion on the part of an average consumer. Shoppers would be likely to assume that the wine and whisky products were commercially linked and had a common origin.
In overturning that decision, the judge found that the officer had erred in principle in failing to consider at the outset how the average consumer would understand the word ‘ORIGIN’ in the context of the relevant goods. Most people would interpret the word as referring to the origin of the goods and that was particularly so in the case of wine and Scotch whisky where geographical origin was perceived as an important factor relating to quality. On reassessing the evidence, the judge ruled that there was no real likelihood of public confusion and opened the way for registration of the ‘JURA ORIGIN’ mark.