X Marks the Spot in IP Battle

Trade marks are jealously protected by their owners. A recent case shows how even seemingly uncontroversial trade marks can be found to infringe existing trade marks and proves the need for care in such circumstances.

The case involved tyre giants Continental and Michelin. Michelin had registered the X symbol as a trade mark in connection with its products. In 2012, Continental sought to register 'XKing' as a trade mark and Michelin opposed it.

The argument turned, as these arguments do, on whether a potential buyer seeing the XKing trade mark would thereby conclude it was buying a Michelin X product.

Despite the fact that the marks look quite different and tyres generally have the manufacturer's name more prominently displayed than any other information on the tyre, the Court of Justice of the European Union concluded that a likelihood of confusion existed and that the XKing trade mark application had to be rejected.