Landmark victory for Vespa in the field of trademark law

At the end of 2023, Piaggio, the manufacturer of Vespa scooters, finally won the several-year battle with the European Union Intellectual Property Office. Namely, Piaggio was the holder of a shape trademark 011686706:

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But in 2021 the Board of Appeal of the European Union Intellectual Property Office decided that Piaggio’s trademark was not valid because it was not distinctive. According to trademark law, distinctiveness is one of the essential elements of a trademark and a prerequisite for it to enjoy protection.

The overall problem for Piaggio stems from a long-standing dispute with Chinese scooter maker Znen (Zhejiang Zhongneng Industry Group Co.). Namely, Znen’s scooters are very similar to those of Vespa and they are also marketed and sold in the Italian market.

In order to increase the competitiveness of its product, not only through the lower price, the Chinese manufacturer intiatated a number of disputes against Piaggio in which it directly attacks the Vespa-shaped trademarks.

However, before the European General Court, Piaggio was able to prove that the Vespa-shaped trademark was well established. One of Piaggio’s main arguments was that the Vespa is on display at the MoMA museum in New York and is part of many timeless film classics. In addition to this, Piaggio had submitted a large amount of market research, opinions, sales evidence and similar other exhibits. The court concluded that Vespa enjoys the status of an “icon” within the European Union, hence the invalidation of the Vespa-shaped trademark was a wrong assessment by the European Union Intellectual Property Office, because it did not take into account all the elements when evaluating the distinctiveness.

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