Italy: La CGUE sull’uso effettivo del marchio nell’etichetta Levi’s

Last Updated: 4 June 2013
Article by Elena Martini

Con sentenza del 18 aprile scorso nella causa C-12/12, la Corte di Giustizia UE (la “CGUE”) si è pronunciata sul tema dell'uso effettivo di un marchio in un caso riguardante la nota etichetta rossa apposta sulla tasca posteriore destra dei jeans Levi's. Il caso vedeva contrapporsi Levi Strauss & Co. alla società Colloseum Holding AG, esercente un negozio di abbigliamento in cui venivano venduti jeans riportanti, a livello della tasca posteriore destra, bandierine di stoffa rettangolari rosse cucite sulla parte superiore della cucitura esterna destra della tasca e contenenti al loro interno dei marchi denominativi tra cui "SM Jeans". Levi Strauss aveva quindi agito in giudizio in Germania contro Colloseum a tutela della propria etichetta rossa, con un ricorso diretto a vietare a Colloseum di offrire, immettere in commercio o detenere a tal fine i pantaloni in questione.

Levi Strauss fondava la propria richiesta sul proprio marchio figurativo comunitario n. 2 292 373, registrato il 10 febbraio 2005, riproducente una etichetta rossa priva di qualsiasi scritta al suo interno. Tale marchio, secondo quanto accertato nel giudizio di merito, aveva acquisito carattere distintivo grazie all'uso fattone all'interno del marchio complesso dato dall'etichetta rossa inclusiva della scritta Levi's al suo interno, ciò che ne aveva consentito la registrazione ai sensi dell'art. 7(3) del Regolamento CE sul Marchio Comunitario n. 40/94 (oggi sostituito dal Reg. 207/09): in base a tale norma, infatti, possono essere registrati come marchi anche i segni in origine privi di carattere distintivo che tuttavia abbiano acquisito carattere distintivo grazie all'uso fattone.

Colloseum da parte sua affermava però che il marchio registrato in questione non le fosse opponibile, in quanto invalido perché non fatto oggetto di un uso effettivo dopo la registrazione ai sensi dell'articolo 15, paragrafo 1, del regolamento n. 40/94, secondo cui "Se entro cinque anni dalla registrazione il marchio comunitario non ha formato oggetto da parte del titolare di un uso effettivo nella Comunità per i prodotti e servizi per i quali è stato registrato, o se tale uso è stato sospeso per un periodo ininterrotto di cinque anni, il marchio comunitario è sottoposto alle sanzioni previste nel presente regolamento, salvo motivo legittimo per il mancato uso". In particolare, secondo Colloseum, Levi Strauss non avrebbe mai usato l'etichetta da sola ma sempre accompagnata dal marchio denominativo Levi's al suo interno; peraltro, lo stesso marchio figurativo dato dall'etichetta con inclusa la scritta Levi's era oggetto a sua volta di una autonoma registrazione: di conseguenza, l'etichetta dei jeans Levi's avrebbe costituito uso del marchio denominativo Levi's ovvero del marchio complesso dato dall'etichetta assieme al termine Levi's, ma non invece uso del marchio costituito dalla sola etichetta rossa priva di scritte.

In tale situazione, il giudice nazionale competente per il merito aveva rinviato la questione alla CGUE per una pronuncia pregiudiziale, chiedendo "se il presupposto di uso effettivo di un marchio, cioè di un uso idoneo ad assicurare il mantenimento dei diritti del titolare di quest'ultimo, ai sensi dell'articolo 15, paragrafo 1, del regolamento n. 40/94, sia soddisfatto qualora un marchio registrato, che ha acquisito il suo carattere distintivo in seguito all'uso di un altro marchio complesso di cui costituisce uno degli elementi, sia utilizzato solo attraverso quest'altro marchio complesso o qualora esso sia utilizzato insieme ad un altro marchio, quando la combinazione dei due marchi è, per di più, registrata essa stessa come marchio".

Nel rispondere al quesito, la CGUE rileva innanzitutto che "la nozione di «uso» di un marchio ingloba sia l'uso autonomo del marchio stesso che il suo uso quale componente di un altro marchio preso nel suo insieme o in combinazione con quest'ultimo". Naturalmente, però, "un marchio registrato che sia utilizzato unicamente in quanto parte di un marchio complesso o congiuntamente con un altro marchio deve continuare ad essere percepito come un'indicazione dell'origine del prodotto in questione affinché un uso siffatto soddisfi la nozione di «uso effettivo» ai sensi del suddetto articolo 15, paragrafo 1". In aggiunta, precisa la Corte, non è sufficiente a dimostrare l'uso effettivo successivo alla registrazione, richiesto dall'art. 15, la circostanza che il marchio avesse acquisito, prima della registrazione e grazie all'uso fattone, carattere distintivo tale da consentirne la registrazione medesima ai sensi dell'art. 7(3) summenzionato.

Precisato questo, la Corte – naturalmente senza entrare nel merito della controversia, lasciato al Giudice nazionale – conclude comunque che "Il requisito dell'uso effettivo di un marchio, ai sensi dell'articolo 15, paragrafo 1, del regolamento (CE) n. 40/94 del Consiglio, del 20 dicembre 1993, sul marchio comunitario, può essere soddisfatto qualora un marchio registrato, che abbia acquisito carattere distintivo in seguito all'uso di un altro marchio complesso di cui costituisce uno degli elementi, sia utilizzato solo attraverso quest'altro marchio complesso, oppure qualora esso sia utilizzato solo congiuntamente con un altro marchio e la combinazione di tali due marchi sia, per di più, a sua volta registrata come marchio".

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