L’Oréal should not be able to stop rivals using its trademark and marketing low-cost copies of its perfume brands, according to an official at The European Court of Justice (ECJ).
Paulo Mengozzi, an advocate general at the ECJ advised yesterday (February 10), in a non-binding advisory opinion, that when the imitator’s use of a trademark does not say it is made by L’Oréal it cannot be barred by European law.
L’Oréal had brought a case against perfume company Bellure, which distributes perfumes that copy the smell of L’Oréal products and uses the names of its perfumes in comparison charts designed to indicate which scent it replicates.
L’Oréal said the company infringed its trademark and was detrimental to its distinctive character. It won the High Court case but lost at the Court of Appeal in 2007. The Court of Appeal ruled that consumers could make the distinction between a cheaper perfume and L’Oréal’s.
Andy Millmore, partner at law firm Harbottle & Lewis and an intellectual property specialist says the opinion “could open the door to a raft of new cheap products exploiting the taste and smell of big brands. If it’s legitimate to say this smells like L’Oréal then it may open the way for people to say this tastes like Coca-Cola.”
L’Oréal was unavailable for comment as Marketing Week went to press.