Recently, the Court of Amsterdam ruled that the Tripp Trapp chair of Stokke does not meet the requirements of a shape trademark and consequently declared the trademark registration invalid.
The design of a product can be protected in various ways: by means of copyright or the registration of a model or a shape trademark. Each of these IP rights has its own specific conditions to which the design or the shape of the product must comply. In order to protect a product using copyright, for example, the design must be original and contain the stamp of the inventor. To omvple a valid model registration, it must be novel and it should have individual character at the time of filing the application. To protect the shape of a product as a trademark, it must have distinctive character, but there are also a number of legal exclusion grounds.
Therefore, a trademark is not permissible if it consists of only:
- the shape or another feature determined by the nature of the products;
- the shape of the products or another feature, which is necessary to achieve a technical result, or;
- the shape or another feature of the products that gives substantial value to the products.
The Court concluded that the trademark, as filed, consists only of a form of a children's highchair with substantial user features that are inherent to the generic functions of a children’s highchair, such as the slanted stands in which all the other elements are integrated and the curved L form of the stands and horizontal bars, in other words, the form of the Tripp Trapp is only determined by the nature of the product. This is one of the exclusion grounds with regard to the registration of a trademark.
The Court has focused only on the issue of whether the shape of the Tripp Trapp chair as a Benelux shape trademark for ‘chairs’, particularly ‘children’s highchair’ can be considered for trademark protection or not. The Court had not ruled about the copyright that rests on the typical design of the chair. Therefore, even if Tripp Trapp is not protected as a trademark, nevertheless the chair remains protected under copyright law, and this will last until 70 years after the death of the designer.