Citroën has used its double-chevron logo since 1919. Over the years, it has become one of the most iconic automobile brands in France. The chevrons of its logo are also the basis of its DS automobile logo which was designed in a logic of creating a link between Citroën and its premium series.
The logo of Polestar resembles a stylized polar star which is composed of two arrowheads, placed diagonally and pointing to the center. With several trademark registrations for its logo in the EU, Polestar planned to enter into the French market at the beginning of 2021, but has been forced to be ceased due to its logo which is considered too close to that of Citroën's.
It's easy to notice from the below picture that both Polestar and Citroën's logos consist of two chevrons but positioned in different ways - while Citroën has them stacked one on top of the other, Polestar has them pointed at one another.
Citroën, after unsuccessfully trying to obtain cancellation of Polestar's trademark registration before the EUIPO, took legal action in 2019 on the grounds of trademark infringement, unfair competition and that there is a risk of confusion among consumers who might link Polestar to Citroën.
The Court sided it by ruling that the EU trademark registrations owned by Polestar did harm the reputation of Citroën's prior registered marks in France.
It considered that, although the logos have a low similarity due to different layouts of the chevrons, given the exceptional reputation of the Citroën brand among French consumers, there is a risk of confusion and Polestar could indirectly benefit from the fame of the world famous "chevron brand".
Accordingly, the court deemed that the use of the Polestar logo in France constitutes infringement upon Citroën. Polestar was ordered to pay 150,000 Euro for the infringement and prohibited from using the logo in France for a period of six months.
Polestar's marketing plan has thus been suspended. As of now, access to its official site in France leads to the below message:
Two different opinions
The EUIPO has dismissed Citroën's applications for cancellation of Polestar's trademark for lack of similarity as the two logos are with different layouts of the chevrons. It pointed out that the dissimilarity of the trademarks cannot be overcome by a highly distinctive character and concluded that Polestar's logo is not to be confused with either Citroën's or DS Automobile's logos. Until now, the Polestar's trademark registration is still valid in France, and Citroën has filed an appeal (still pending) against the EUIPO's decision.
However, the outcome of the French court is quite the opposite. It confirmed that the visual similarity between the two logos are low but held that Polestar's use of chevron signs would cause the public to recall Citroën and thus Polestar could take unfair advantage of the well-known Citroën logo.
The legal battle between the two automobile players has showed us the power of a well-known brand. It is the reputation of the Citroën trademark that causes the trademark infringement, as the visual similarity between the logos combined with Citroën's significant reputation would likely benefit Polestar.
On the basis of a trademark with high reputation, the trademark owner has a broader protection than the owner of an 'ordinary' trademark. It may take actions against identical and similar marks for similar and non-similar goods or services. The stronger the prior mark's distinctive character and reputation, the easier it will be to accept that detriment has been made.
Of course there must be a certain degree of similarity between the trademark with the reputation and the trademark that is under attack, so that there is a risk of confusion or the relevant public may establish a link.
The article was originally published on HFG Law&Intellectual Property website: http://www.hfgip.com/news/citroen-blocks-polestar-france-due-similar-logo
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