Bag with Batman symbol
Photo: Kay Nietfeld / dpa
A bat in an oval: Since February 2, 1998, the famous Batman logo has been registered as a trademark in the EU – and has since belonged to the US company DC Comics, the publisher of the Batman comics. This will continue to be the case in the future, the Court of First Instance of the European Union (CJEU) in Luxembourg ruled – and dismissed the action of an Italian wholesaler for cancellation of the trademark (file number: T-735/21).
A comic magazine featuring Batman, the hero in a bat costume, was first published in the United States in 1939. The Italian company Commerciale Italiana from Naples wanted to use a similar logo for its products. Therefore, in 2019, it applied to the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) for the trademark to be declared null and void for clothing as well as carnival and carnival costumes, for example.
The company's reasoning: The motif is not perceived by the public as a brand, but merely as a decorative detail of the Batman figure. In particular, it argued that the mark had no distinctive character and was descriptive. Thus, the purpose of a trademark to give consumers an indication of the manufacturer is missing. Therefore, it should not have been registered.
Clear association with the comics
However, the EUIPO rejected the application, saying that even according to the evidence submitted by Commerciale Italiana, the Batman figure and logo had always been mentally associated with the publisher in question.
Now an EU court supports the decision of the authority – and confirmed the trademark protection. The fact that consumers first think of the logo as the fictitious comic character does not preclude the sign from also referring to the origin of goods marked with it. In addition, the Batman figure is also associated with the publisher DC Comics among consumers. Therefore, the EUIPO was right to find that the logo has the necessary distinctiveness.