Single Letter “α” Protectable As Community Trademark
A single letter (here the Greek letter Alpha “α” is protectable as a figurative trademark without further enhancement or graphic design.
It was disputed that the sign at issue has distinctive character because it consists only of one single letter. A lack of distinctiveness is an absolute ground for refusal to register a Community Trademark pursuant to Article 7(1)(b) of Regulation No 40/94.
The court has decided, that a single letter in deed can have the distinctive character required under Article 7(1)(b) of Regulation No 40/94 if it is suitable in principle in the individual case to distinguish the origin of a product in the eyes of the relevant circles of the public.
The court reasons that:
“It is apparent from the case-law that Article 7(1)(b) of Regulation No 40/94 draws no distinction between the different categories of trade mark and that the criteria for assessment of the distinctive character of trade marks which consist of a single letter are the same as those applicable to the other categories of trade mark.”
The European Court of First Instance has therefore referred back the trademark application to OHIM for re-examination in the light of the grounds of the judgement.
European Court of First Instance (T‑23/07, 29th April 2009)