Landmark ruling on brand names

TDKA new European trademark ruling may give brands greater powers to stop companies using similar names or logos, even if they operate in completely different sectors.

A ruling from the Court of First Instance of the European Communities (CFI) has found in favour of Japanese electronic company TDK Group, which objected to Danish company Bestseller using the initials TDK on a range of clothing. The ruling, upheld by CFI after two previous EU court rulings in TDK’s favour, found that even though the TDK’s European trademark does not cover clothes, its sponsorship activities involve its logo appearing on clothing and other items.

The court decided, if someone else were to use TDK for a clothing brand, consumers might reasonably think TDK was making them or had licensed them. In such a case, the clothing manufacturer would be taking "unfair advantage… of the reputation of the earlier marks, a reputation which is the result of the activities, efforts and investments undertaken by [TDK] for more than 20 years."

The ruling effectively extends intellectual property rights into new areas, and may mean a trademark owner has greater powers to stop another company using a similar logo, even thought they operate in completely different business sectors.

Ilanah Simon, an intellectual property law expert and lecturer in law at Brunel University, says: "This is good news for owners of famous brand names."

Simon suggests the CFI’s decision shows that sponsorship can have benefits to a brand owner far beyond immediate sales boosts or short-term consumer attitudinal changes. But simply being involved in a one-off sponsorship deal may not be enough to trigger the added benefits.

The CFI noted that TDK had been investing heavily over many decades in sports and music related events, many of which had been televised or recorded.

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here