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European trademark protection for “Oktoberfest”

Although Oktoberfest has been canceled for the second year in a row due to the pandemic, the world-famous event in Munich has nevertheless made newspaper headlines.

After a registration period of five years at the European Trademarks Office, European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), the term “Oktoberfest” now enjoys trademark protection within the EU for a broad range of goods and services.

The city of Munich, as organizer of the Oktoberfest, has also had “Oktoberfest Munich” and other variations be protected throughout Europe to head off any free riders.

World-famous

This registration as a European trademark brings to an end the series of failed attempts by the city of Munich to have “Oktoberfest” protected as a German trademark by the German patent and trademark office. The opposing argument was always that the concept had to be kept available; it is only descriptive, and therefore it is not eligible for trademark protection. This is surprising, considering that Oktoberfest was already world-famous at the time of the first German application attempt and — contrary to what the name suggests — takes place not in October but in September.

Munich must share trademark protection for the term “Wiesn” (German for “meadows”), as the famous festival is called in the Bavarian dialect. Smart companies were quicker to the chase, since they had already protected the term years earlier, including its use for furniture and in advertising. In any case, Munich was able to obtain trademark protection for services with respect to websites and search engines.

Munich now possesses a solid legal basis for acting against providers who want to profit as free riders from the name’s popularity.

Independent event

Small Oktoberfest celebrations exist in many places around the world, such as in Cincinnati, Ohio (US), for example. This festival is promoted as an independent event and not as a split-off of the Oktoberfest in Munich. The city of Munich emphasizes that it will not take action against such events, since they promote the reputation of the original event.

On the other hand, people were not happy with the recent “Oktoberfest goes Dubai” campaign that was supposed to give the impression that the Munich party would take place in Dubai in 2021. The regional Munich court prohibited the planned event and the advertising associated with it, using the argument that the event harmed the good name of the original event and misled consumers.

If you have any questions about trademark protection, feel free to contact one of our experts.

A contribution of

Portretfoto van Raquel Alvarez

Raquel Alvarez

  • European and Benelux Trademark and Design Attorney
  • Associate

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