Guide to trademark infringement

 infraccion marca

 How to protect your brand from third party infringement?

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The brand it is one of the most valuable assets for many companies. We can define it as thatsigno que es susceptible de representación gráfica, that allows distinguishing in economic traffic, market, the products and services offered by a business of others”. It is regulated by Law 17/2001, of 7 December, of Brands.

In this post we are going to review the trademark infringement, namely, situations in which the rights of the owner of the same are injured.

Do you have a defensible brand? Should your trademark be registered in order to go to court?

For a brand to be defensible, as an intangible asset of your company, It must be registered with the Spanish Patent and Trademark Office, which depends on the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism.

Having your trademark is essential to be able to defend it in case a competitor tries to take advantage of it. If you are not registered, any competitor can appropriate it and its reputation.

While is true that it is not mandatory to register a trademark, Failure to do so may have various consequences:  They could force you to stop using the brand, or to ask you for compensation for damages, even, have to give it up.

Ultimately, The validly carried out registration is the only way for the trademark owners to fully and exclusively guarantee the right to use it..

The article 2 Trademark Law, in its apartado uno, states "The property right over the trademark and the commercial name is acquired by the validly carried out registration in accordance with the provisions of this Law.

However, if a trademark was not registered by its owner, and it had been requested with fraud of the rights of a third party or with violation of a legal or contractual obligation, the same precept, in section three, reflects that "The injured person may claim ownership of the trademark in court, if you exercise the appropriate action reivindicatoria prior to the registration date or within a period of five years from its publication or from the moment the registered trademark began to be used (…).” The Claim action for the Trademark Law is exercised to request the right of preferential registration of the brand, that was acquired by a third party fraudulently.

The current Trademark Law regulates the legal instruments for the defense and protection of trademarks that are registered, granting to owner of said trademark, various means of protection and defense. Strengthens the legal position of the owner against illegitimate interference, so i can go to court.

In order to protect these unregistered trademarks, José Massaguer Fuentes established that it is necessary to take into account the following rules:

“i) The unregistered trademark must have been used previously and within the same material and territorial scope as the sign with which it is confronted.

ii) Signs that hinder the activity of competitors cannot access protection.

iii) To have reached a minimum degree of implantation and recognition in said market. "

What civil actions are provided for by the Trademark Law?

The article 40 Trademark Law states that "The owner of a registered trademark may exercise before the jurisdictional bodies the corresponding civil or criminal actions against those who violate his right and demand the necessary measures to safeguard it., all without prejudice to the submission to arbitration, if possible. "

Focusing on civil actions, is the article 41 of the Act, the one that collects the civil actions that the owner of the trademark can exercise. Specifically, the following:

  1. “Cessation of acts that violate your right.
  2. Compensation for damages suffered.
  3. Adoption of necessary measures to prevent the violation from continuing and, en particular, products are withdrawn from economic traffic, packaging, wrappers, advertising material, labels or other documents in which the violation of trademark rights and the seizure or destruction of the media mainly intended to commit the infringement has materialized. These measures will be executed at the expense of the offender, Unless good reasons are alleged not to be the case.
  4. Destruction or disposal for humanitarian purposes, if possible, at the actor's choice, and always at the cost of the condemned, of the products illegally identified with the brand that are in the possession of the infringer, Unless the nature of the product allows the removal of the distinctive sign without affecting the product or the destruction of the product causes disproportionate damage to the offender or the owner, according to the specific circumstances of each case assessed by the Court.
  5. Attribution of ownership of the products, materials and media seized by virtue of the provisions of section c) cuando sea posible, in which case the value of the affected goods will be charged to the amount of compensation for damages. If the mentioned value exceeds the amount of the compensation granted, the trademark right holder must compensate the other party for the excess.
  6. Publication of the sentence at the cost of the convicted person through announcements and notifications to interested persons. "

What compensation can be obtained?

The owner of the brand whose rights are violated, You can request compensation for damages, as shown in the article 41 LM. Specifically, the article 42 of the Trademark Law, establece los Budgets necessary to be able to request it.

The article 42 sets:

1. Who, without the consent of the trademark owner, perform any of the acts provided for in letter a) the apartado 3 and paragraph 4 Item 34, as well as those responsible for the first commercialization of the illegally marked products or services, They will be obliged in any case to answer for the damages caused.

2. All those who carry out any other act of violation of the registered trademark will only be obliged to compensate the damages caused if they had been sufficiently warned by the owner of the trademark or, if, by the person entitled to exercise the action regarding the existence of this, conveniently identified, and his violation, with the requirement that they cease in the same, or when guilt or negligence has been mediated in its performance or the brand in question was renamed. "

How come Essential requirements. Indispensable requirements, the existence of damage, namely, that such damages and losses suffered, With the exception of cases in which the events that occurred show the existence of the damage, for themselves.

It is necessary to prove the damage caused. Specifically in the STS 351/2011, of 31 May it was established that The general doctrine of this Chamber in the matter of compensation for damages is that They are not presumed but must be accredited by whoever claims them, both existence (“an”) as its amount (“quantum”), so good, in accordance with the provision of art. 360 LEC 1881, while the reality of the damage will have to be proven in any case in the declaratory trial, in return, The bases for setting and / or quantification can be deferred to execution of the sentence when the proof has not been able to take place in the declaration process.

This doctrine, peaceful and repeated, has a exception in the jurisprudence itself, which considers correct the presumption of existence of damage (apart, Of course, when there is a specific legal rule) when a situation occurs in which the damages are revealed as real and effective. These are cases in which the existence of the damage is necessarily and fatally deduced from the illicit or non-compliance, or are they forced consequence, natural e inevitable, or incontrovertible damages, obvious or patents, according to the various dictions used. Se produce una situación en quehabla la cosa misma” (“ex re ipsa”), so no proof is needed, because reality acts incontestably for it. "

How are compensation calculated in the Trademark Law?

To calculate compensation for damages, we must go to article 43.

En su first section, states that this type of compensation will include not only the losses suffered, but also the lost earnings by the owner of the trademark registration because of the violation of his right. (…) may also require the compensation for the damage caused to the prestige of the brand by the infringer. (…) the compensation amount may include, if, the research expenses which have been incurred to obtain reasonable evidence of the commission of the offense that is the object of the judicial procedure. "

En su second section, what will be taken into account when calculating compensation is listed. Specifically, will be taken into account:

  • "The negative economic consequences, among them the benefits that the owner would have obtained through the use of the trademark if the violation had not taken place or, alternatively, the benefits that the offender has obtained as a result of the violation.
  • A lump sum amount that at least includes the amount that the infringer would have had to pay to the trademark owner for the granting of a license that would have allowed him to carry out its use in accordance with the law..

In the case of moral damage, your compensation will proceed, the existence of economic damage has not yet been proven. "

En su third section, It is established that in order to fix the compensation amount,, also, the reputation and prestige of the brand, as well as the number and class of licenses granted until the violation of the right began. If the damage to the brand occurs in its prestige, will also be taken into account, not just the circumstances of the offense, but also the severity of the injury and the spread in the market. The fourth section establishes that the trademark owner may demand that all documents that allow the compensation amount to be set.

Last, the fifth section states that when violation has been judicially declared, the trademark owner will not have to prove the damage, having the right to receive as compensation for damages, the 1 percent of the turnover made by the violator with illegally marked products or services. If the violation caused you greater damages, you may request a higher compensation.

In fact, the SAP Alicante (Community Trademark Court), of 22 November 2005, established the criteria for quantifying compensation for damages. Specifically, He said that "The criterion to define the concept of "turnover" is provided by the 9th regulation of the Fourth Part of the General Accounting Plan approved by Royal Decree 1643/90, of 20 December, cuando dice: «The net amount of the annual turnover will be determined by deducting from the amount of the sales of the products and the provision of services, corresponding to the ordinary activities of the company, the amount of bonuses and other reductions on sales and that of value added tax and other taxes directly related to them. "

How to prove the infringement of the trademark and the damage suffered?

To be able to prove the infringement of the trademark, let's bring up the STS 516/2019, of 3 October 2019, in which the Supreme Court established that “(…) una vez que se haya puesto en evidencia que la infracción marcaria ha deparado un “damage” para el titular de la marca, entendido en aquel sentido amplio que incluye el enriquecimiento injustificado del infractor, puede optarse por un criterio legal u otro del art. 43.2 LM , aunque lo que se compense no responda exactamente al concreto perjuicio sufrido con la infracción.

(…) debe interpretarse lo regulado en el apartado 5 de ese mismo art. 43 LM. (…) Contiene una regla a la que puede acogerse el titular de la marca que ha sufrido una infracción que le ha reportado un “damage”, para calcular la indemnización y evitar que la falta de prueba le prive de una compensación económica. Aunque esta regla acentúa la objetivación de la compensación económica, no por ello puede interpretarse en el sentido de que se tenga derecho a una indemnización incluso en los casos en que se haya constatado que la infracción no pudo ocasionar “damage” alguno al titular de la marca.

Exige como presupuesto previo the existencia del “damage”, con independencia de su entidad.

Como se ha apuntado en la doctrina, esta regla no altera la naturaleza resarcitoria de la acción de indemnización de daños y perjuicios, que presupone la existencia de estos. No introduce una suerte de sanción por la infracción, en beneficio del titular de la marca infringida, but la ratio de la norma es facilitar la cuantificación de la indemnización: en todo caso el 1% de la cifra de negocios realizada por el infractor con los productos o servicios ilícitamente marcados.

In fact, esta regla (…) está relacionada con el criterio de cuantificación de la letra a) Art. 43.2 LM, pues facilita el cálculo del beneficio económico obtenido por el infractor con la violación de la marca.”

On the other hand, en la indemnización por daños y perjuicios, también es necesario probar el daño, no solo basta con probar que ha existido una infracción. In this case, teniendo en cuenta la doctrina jurisprudencial, se ha de probar el daño a través de la aportación de informes periciales y documentación que acredite la materialización del daño por la vulneración del derecho como propietario de la marca.

What is the difference between trademark infringement and unfair competition?  Are actions for trademark infringement and unfair competition compatible?

Difference between trademark infringement and unfair competition

The Supreme Court, on STS 94/2017, of 15 February 2017, estableció que la normativa sobre marcas y sobre competencia desleal cumplen funciones diferentes. “(…) the primera protege un derecho subjetivo sobre un bien inmaterial, un derecho de exclusiva generador de un ius prohibendi en su titular, the segunda protege el correcto funcionamiento del mercado, de modo que la competencia se realice por méritos o por eficiencia de las propias prestaciones y no por conductas desleales.

(…), la Ley de Marcas, al proteger los signos que permiten identificar el origen empresarial de los productos y servicios, contribuye también a mantener el correcto funcionamiento del mercado, al excluir el error en las decisiones de adquisición de bienes o contratación de servicios.

La coexistencia entre una y otra normativa se caracteriza por lo que se ha venido en llamar una «complementariedad relativa» (SSTS 586/2012, of 17 October 95/2014, of 11 March).”

The STS 450/2015, of 2 September said that “(…) of part, la mera infracción de estos derechos marcarios no puede constituir un acto de competencia desleal (…) (STS 586/2012, of 17 October)

(…) no procede acudir a la Ley de Competencia Desleal para combatir conductas plenamente comprendidas en la esfera de la normativa de Marcas (en relación con los mismos hechos y los mismos aspectos o dimensiones de esos hechos).

(…) procede la aplicación de la legislación de competencia desleal a conductas relacionadas con la explotación de un signo distintivo, que presente una faceta o dimensión anticoncurrencial específica, distinta de aquella que es común con los criterios de infracción marcaria.

The STS 94/2017, of 15 February 2017 concluded that “(…) si consiguen superar el control propio de la Ley de Marcas, no es posible que esos mismos hechos constituyan competencia desleal por las mismas razones relevantes para realizar el enjuiciamiento de la licitud de su conducta con base en la normativa marcaria.”

Ultimately, the STS 586/2012, of 17 October, llegó a la conclusión de que “la procedencia de aplicar una u otra legislación, o ambas a la vez, dependerá de la pretensión de la parte actora y de cuál sea su fundamento fáctico, así como de que se demuestre la concurrencia de los presupuestos de los respectivos comportamientos que han de darse para que puedan ser calificados como infractores conforme alguna de ellas o ambas a la vez.”

Compatibility of brand infringement and unfair competition actions

Las acciones que se ejerciten por competencia desleal tendrán que ejercitarse de forma subsidiaria a las acciones marcarias. El ejercicio de las acciones reguladas en la Ley de Marcas y las acciones de la legislación de competencia desleal se admite por nuestra jurisprudencia, en virtud del “principio de complementariedad relativa”, tal y como se ha mencionado en párrafos anteriores. La legislación de competencia desleal es complementaria de la Ley de Marcas. Una y otra persiguen objetivos distintos.

La Ley de Marcas protege un derecho de exclusiva de su titular, mientras que la Ley de Competencia Desleal protege el correcto funcionamiento del mercado.

The doctrina del Tribunal Supremo ha establecido que cabe la aplicación complementaria de la legislación de competencia desleal cuando lo que se denuncie no se proteja por la legislación marcaria.

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